The New York Rangers will open their 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight against the eighth-seeded Ottawa Senators. A quick study of the teams’ regular season statistics shows that this is truly a battle of two different styles. As any good fan of combat sports will tell you, styles make fights, so this should be a good one.
Throughout the season, the Rangers proved to be one of the best defensive teams in the NHL, and were nearly unbeatable with the lead. New York finished third overall in goals against with an average of just 2.22 GA/G. By contrast, Ottawa finished near the bottom at 24th, with a GA/G average of 2.88. The Rangers were also amongst the league leaders in keeping shots away from their own net. Their Shots Against per Game(SA/G) average of 27.8 ranked them sixth best, while the Senators finished 29th with a SA/G of 32. New York was also far better at killing penalties. Their PK success rate of 86.2% was good enough for fifth overall, while Ottawa came in 20th with their 81.6% rating. Defensively, the Rangers have a decided edge.
Offense is another matter. Although the Rangers had a few high scoring games, their signature style was to get an early lead and then just grind out the remainder of the game. They rarely took advantage of their powerplay opportunities, finishing 23rd in the league, with a success rate of just 15.7%. The Rangers will need to rely on the penalty killing abilities against Ottawa, ranked eleventh in the NHL, on the powerplay. The Senators also finished fourth overall in Goals per Game, averaging 2.96 G/G compared to 2.71 for New York.
Should the potent Ottawa offense manage to penetrate the rock-solid Ranger defense, they will still have to deal with Henrik Lundqvist. Amongst goalies who played more than sixty games this season, King Henry is ranked second in goals against, tied for first in save percentage, and came in third with eight shutouts. The Rangers have the goalie edge in this series, and, likely, every series they will play this post season.
Odds and Ends
The lack of a successful powerplay really hurts the Rangers in this series. Ottawa was assessed 340 minor penalties this season. Only four other teams had more.
Brandon Dubinsky needs a big post season. He was all but gone at the deadline, and if he wants to remain a Ranger, he better convince management that he is necessary to the team’s success.
Chris Kreider signed an entry level contract, and could possibly play in this series. He practiced with the big club today, mixing into line rushes with Dubinsky, Fedotenko, and Boyle.
“It was a pretty quick turnaround,” said Kreider after practice. “Day One was pretty exciting. I was just really happy to get on the ice and finally start playing some hockey. They definitely sent the message that if I want to play I’m going to have to prove that I am ready to play, and that I will have to earn my ice time, which is how I think it should be. I have no expectations coming in, but I’m going to be like a sponge and learn from everyone.”
Rangers in SIX