Of concern: Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist showed signs of wearing down as the regular season wore on. (Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
By Stu Hackel
If you’re looking for Stanley Cup predictions, you’ve come to the wrong place. As we’ve previously written, predictions are a waste of time. However, we’re willing to take some stabs at what is each playoff team about. What do they have to do to win? What must they avoid to prevent things from going south?
So here are the keys to the first round match-ups in the Eastern Conference. You can find the keys to the Western Conference here.
NEW YORK RANGERS (1) vs. OTTAWA SENATORS (8)
Rangers - Who they are and how they win: This team is all about character and sacrifice, starting with captain Ryan Callahan. The Rangers play with unmatched passion, and their shot-blocking and energy are exceptional. They don’t lose a lot of races for the puck and they take hits to make plays. They roll four lines and have better team speed than some think, especially up front, which gives them a dangerous quick-strike offense. Some people believe New York is a one-line team, but it had decent secondary scoring this season and, because coach John Tortorella has juggled lines all year, he can probably correct any imbalance. Solid defensively, the Rangers keep opponents to the outside and have world-class goaltending with Henrik Lundqvist.
What could go wrong: . The Rangers’ shot-blocking and physical sacrifice could lead to injuries and a depleted lineup. Lundqvist was not at his best in the late going and that would be problematic if it continues in the postseason. They also don’t have a great power play and taking advantage of those opportunities in the postseason is crucial. The Rangers could get frustrated if their power play falters. The worst thing they could do is be overconfident or take Ottawa too lightly. The Senators are just as fast a team and they have played well against New York all season.