2012 NHL Playoffs Preview: Rangers vs. Senators
It’s NHL playoffs time! Peter Nygaard (follow him on Twitter)joins us again this year to break down all the opening round match-ups — this time, with a political spin. Over the next 8 posts, examine all the evidence presented, and decide where your vote would be best served! Enjoy!
It’s getting to be that time again. It’s hard to believe that the endless jostling for position has gotten us here, but this is where it all airs out. It’s hard to believe that just four years ago, this year’s presumptive favorite was nothing but an up-and-comer, a hopeful. After years of the same boring, unwatchable figures, the masses clamored for a new face. A young face. A face that inspired hope, a change to the system, and a new way of doing things.
Believe it or not, but four years ago, the landscape as we know it was forever changed, as the Pittsburgh Penguins made their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in the Sidney Crosby era.
What, did you think I was talking about something else?
As you may or may not know (Hi, Canada), in addition to boasting the most unpredictable Stanley Cup playoffs in recent memory, 2012 is also an election year in the United States. In November, America will cast its ballot to determine its next president. Until then, we will be subject to vicious back-and-forth action in the media, as each campaign tries to push their guy ahead.
In the NHL, we’re coming to the end of some campaigns as well. 14 campaigns have already closed up shop for the summer. Another 15 will soon be coming to an end. For the next two months, we will see run-off after run-off, as the remaining NHL contenders fight tooth-and-nail to win your vote as the best hockey team in the world. The Presidents have already been decided. Well, the Presidents’ Trophy winners, at least. But the real prize has yet to be earned. One team will succeed in its campaign to be elected your next Stanley Cup champion. The only question is who.
Let’s check in on each of the campaigns and see which way the battleground states may fall.
New York Rangers (1) vs. Ottawa Senators (8)
- The Issues:
Blue-collar Blue Shirts — Don’t be fooled by the high price tags on Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, coach John Tortorella has New York playing team hockey. The Rangers grind it out, block shots and get down and dirty. The Rangers don’t take many shots per game, but they’re even better at limiting the number of clean shots opponents get. And when you have arguably the best goalie in the NHL, you’re going to win a lot of 2-1 games.Tough on crime — Led by left-winger Brandon Prust, who dropped the gloves a league-high 20 times this season, the Rangers went “stick, gloves, shirt” more than any other team. Linemate Mike Rupp and defenseman Stu Bickel have also not been shy about punishing wrongdoers. Unfortunately, as New Yorkers are often prone to do, the Rangers look to settle more fights with their fists than they do with their sticks. New York ranked eighth-worst on the powerplay during the regular season.
- Political Dirt:
The New York Rangers’ campaign has been inundated with questions about whether or not the team spent $150k on new clothes for goaltender and fashionista Henrik Lundqvist.
- Campaign Promises:
If elected, the Rangers promise to bring the enormous New York media market along for the ride. Say what you want about New York fans, but the Rangers have averaged a sellout for the last decade, and the Garden will be rocking come Thursday night.
- The Issues:
We are the 99% — The Senators qualified for the playoffs despite having the fifth-lowest payroll in the NHL. It’s no secret that the Senators’ most valuable player this season was defenseman Erik Karlsson, but as an added bonus, Karlsson is still playing under his rookie contract, meaning his 78 points and +16 rating came at the small price of $1.3 million. That’s only $17k per point.All-4-1 Plan — Though netminder Craig Anderson has certainly not experienced the same success that the man he was traded for last February — Brian Elliott — has had, his playoff record inspires confidence. Anderson helped the upstart 8-seed Colorado Avalanche take a 2-1 series lead over the heavily favored San Jose Sharks in the opening round, holding the Sharks to one goal in the opener and recording a 51-save shutout in Game 3. However, after dropping Game 4 in overtime, Anderson was yanked in Game 5 and allowed three goals in Game 6, as the Avs were eliminated. Still, ‘Andy’ finished the series with a .933 save percentage, a testament to the difference he made in the series. If the Senators are going to have any chance in this series, Anderson will likely need a repeat performance of his early series heroics.
- Political Dirt:
What, you thought a team called the Senators wasn’t going to have a few shady friends in their back pocket? I’m convinced that Gary Bettman stood in the rafters of the Prudential Center shining a laser pointer in Marty Brodeur’s eyes to ensure a second-round meeting between Crosby and Ovechkin in the 2009 playoffs. The only way the 7-seed Caps will have a chance of facing the 4-seed Pens in the second round is with an Ottawa upset.
- Campaign Promises:
If elected, the Senators promise to give you a wily veteran to root for in what may very well be his swan song. Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson has worn the ‘C’ for the Sens since the 1999-2000 season and has never played for another team in the NHL. He brought the Senators within three wins of the Stanley Cup in 2007. While he’s said he’s hoping to lace up the skates for one more season, what better way to go out than lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup?