Hard work and ruthless determination have kept the New York Rangers in full swing, for now. As the Rangers head back to Washington, the sense of urgency to win and wrap up the series requires some scoring acceleration to maintain the swing they’re in.
The New York Rangers are just one win away from the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1997. New York entered the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the top seed in the Eastern Conference having posted a record of 51-24-7 overall (27-12-2 at home; 24-12-5 on the road) for 109 points.
Marian Gaborik, Carl Hagelin, and Brad Richards can front the much needed scoring to clinch the series if the dominating forwards can beat the ravenous Capitals. With the series at 3-2, Washington has an opportunity to even the score and preserve their path to the Stanley Cup, but not if New York can win the race.
In a 3-2 win, New York grabbed the chance to extend their series lead in a overtime power-play goal from Marc Staal. The Rangers had been 2 for 16 on the power-play in the series, until Monday night’s game-winner, while the Capitals are 3 for 16 on the power-play in the series. The power-play has been a consistent improvement area for the Rangers, particularly in their conference playoff wins. Scrounging up a win gets the job done, but New York’s speed and talented top line has to rule the ice to secure their next round.
Statistically, New York dominated the Washington Capitals taking a 26-10 edge in shots in the first 40 minutes of the game, and 38-18 overall. Washington is 0-5 in the playoffs when their opponent scores first. All the data to support the Rangers’ victory doesn’t win the next game; New York’s top line must plaster the net if they want to secure their positioning for the next round. If the Rangers can score first, it may disgruntle the Capitals or demoralize their efforts.
The combination of Garborik’s speed and Carl Hagelin’s superior speed, plus Brad Richards’s leadership creates a line capable of fulfilling New York’s long-term plans to bring the Cup back to the Big Apple. Marian Gaborik, who has been heavily criticized for his lack of production, came back to life in Game 3 of the series scoring the game-winning-goal in triple overtime. Though rookie Carl Hagelin has just one assist in the playoffs and just 34 points this year, Hagelin is an integral part of the Rangers front line. His abilities stack up with checking, taking hits to make plays, making sharp passes, and keeping the puck alive.
Brad Richards can be the game changer with nine game-winning-goals during the season, including the Winter Classic game winner. Richards scored seven game winners in the 2004 playoffs with the Tampa Bay Lightning, which served him well winning the Conn Smythe for his brilliance. Richards’s $60 million contract now looks like money well spent for the Rangers and Coach Tortorella
The Richards-Gaborik-Hagelin line is in need of production if they want to move on to meet the New Jersey Devils. If the Rangers can send Washington packing, New York will meet the Devils in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth time.
The New York Rangers and The Washington Capitals are meeting in the playoffs for the seventh time overall and the third time in four years. In last year’s postseason meeting, Washington eliminated the Blueshirts in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, 4-1.
In the words of Coach John Tortorella, “The team that doesn’t have the momentum is trying to get it as fast as they can, and the team that has it is trying to hold onto it for as long as they can.”