With the Eastern Conference Playoff teams set, aside from seeding, it is time to start thinking about which team the Rangers would match up most favorably against.
Right now the Rangers sit second in the Metropolitan division with two games to go, they have 93 points on the year and 40 ROW results, they can only move down in the standings during the tail end of the season, but odds are they will end up with the Metro’s second seed, but regardless of whether they are second or third in the division they would face either the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Philadelphia Flyers. If they fall down to a Wild Card spot, which is highly unlikely at this point, they would draw either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Boston Bruins, neither is a favorable matchup for the Blueshirts.
Obviously, no best case scenario would involve the Rangers not having home ice advantage, despite the fact the Rangers are better on the road than they are at MSG, you always want home ice in the Playoffs as often as possible. Which means we will work under the premise that they secure second place in the Metro from this point forward.
So, now, the focus is on whether, as a Ranger fan, you would rather see the Rangers face the Flyers or the Jackets. For me I’d rather see the Rangers face the Blue Jackets. In some ways this selection flies in the face of traditional playoff hockey logic, but to me the Rangers would have an easier time with them than the Flyers.
The Blue Jackets have the one thing every team wants in the playoffs, a terrific goaltender. Sergei Bobrovsky has had another fantastic season for Columbus, posting a .922 save percentage and a 2.39 goals against. Both are stellar numbers, and Bobrovsky has the capability of stealing a game at any time, which is one reason to fear the Jackets, but, honestly, it’s the only reason to fear them. The Blue Jackets do not have a single player with more than 60 points, which was team leader Ryan Johansen‘s total on the year (who? exactly), meaning that they do not have one skater that the Rangers should really fear.
The Blue Jackets do play a playoff brand of hockey, defensive oriented, and do the little things that win you hockey games very well, they dig in the corners, they play physical and they play strong in front of both nets.
Let’s not forget that if this series comes down to goaltending, the Rangers should have an edge. Henrik Lundqvist has more ability and more pedigree than Bobrovsky.
The Flyers on the other hand do not have a great goaltender, but Steve Mason has had a very solid year between the pipes in Philly, posting a .917 S% and a 2.51 GAA, but I’d be lying if I said I thought he could steal a series. What scares me is the fierce rivalry between the teams, which always lends itself to unpredictability, the stereotypical “throw out the records when these teams meet” type of thing that you hear/read about. The other issue is that the Flyers would have the best skater on the ice every night in Claude Giroux. The Flyers captain scored more than a point per game this season and has the ability to take over a game offensively, and with the Rangers lack of scoring this year that concerns me.
Having Lundqvist in goal for the Rangers will keep them in most games against either team, but the prospect of having to keep up with Giroux offensively would trouble me more than relying on Lundqvist to outplay Bobrovsky.
If it were up to me I’d say, bring on the Jackets!
Tags: New York Rangers