Fans know when the Blueshirts have screwed up. All it takes is that camera shot of Coach John Tortorella cringing with a smirk. Someone on the ice will hear about it. The media adores the New York Rangers, but would appreciate more from Torts. Lengthier interviews, some pep in his appearances, but it always seems he’s in a rush to knock some heads in the locker room. Ovechkin is in town, and either Torts can charm the media, or Ovie will take it instead.
Then again, the taunts of Alex Ovechkin’s grandstanding and Torts short appeasement of the media will be entertaining. Most hockey pundits would call the darling of this series, Henrik Lundqvist, the Vezina and Hart finalist who looks suave in the Broadway hat. Ovechkin’s days of shocking have stalled during an opportunity to rise in the absence of Sidney Crosby.
New York is cool and calm heading into this series, as they should be. While Torts is smug with the media, though he’s had a stint with TSN as an analyst, he’s smart and sly; The way a winning coach must perform. Lundqvist just smiles and is honest about his humbleness of being in the playoffs. Aw shucks, Hank.
It helps that New York has been in this position before. In 2009 and 2011, the Rangers and Capitals battled with the Blueshirts on the losing end. In 2009, the Rangers couldn’t hang on chucking a 3-1 series lead and losing in seven. Last season, the No. 1-seeded Capitals smoked the No. 8-seeded Rangers quickly in five games. Keys to winning are in place for the Rangers to calm the Caps, with goaltending as a pivotal ponder point.
Henrik Lundqvist, superhero, Vezina finalist, Hart finalist, and the backbone of Broadway will face the thrill of this meeting. This is his Stanley Cup to take or to tank. It would help if the defense could keep Ovie out, but this eventually becomes a battle between Ovechkin and Hank. The odds look great for the goaltender, who posted 39 of the Rangers’ 51 regular season wins, setting a single-season personal-best of 1.97 goals-against average, and .930 save percentage, plus eight shutouts.
The Rangers can win in goaltending. Deal done. That’s only one part of the equation. The Blueshirts must contain the personality and skill Ovechkin has before it’s unleashed. The defensive duo of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh will take on the deed of defending Ovie.
The good news is that Alex Ovechkin has had a bad year with only 38 goals. Ovie was benched a few times during the Boston series for lack of production, but he loves playing against the Rangers on the big stage of Madison Square Garden. The lights, the fans, the boos will not dismantle Ovie; He can revive his energy in this series.
The Rangers have an opportunity to ruin the offensive core of the Caps. The resurgence of Nick Backstrom, who missed 40 games with a concussion, has accrued 44 points in his last 42 games and is a prime target. Alex Semin’s game has been heavily criticized for lack of effort, but he was second on the team in scoring. Marcus Johansson is no slouch, and can put up when needed. The Caps would love to bring down the house again at MSG.
Escaping a close call with the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers pulled through winning Game 7, 2-1. The tenacity of the Senators almost brought down the Rangers, but can Washington delete New York again? They will make it difficult, and the Rangers will be tested. Playoff hero Brian Boyle is needed for this series. Coach John Tortorella has to suck it up and play the game as he tells his players; Enjoy the moment and take one game at a time.
Broadway’s darlings are set to shine and shut down the Capitals before they can begin. If Ovechkin’s grandstand is contained, then the Rangers will stand grand.
Heidi has been a Rangers fan since the Gretzky years. While focusing on The Blue Line and hockey’s stalwart defenders, Heidi also connects with the human side of hockey. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or at her blog Don’t Cross My Blue Line.