Hate him or love him–and there’s a much heavier subscription rate in the “hate” category–Sean Avery has the potential to swing any series at any given time.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Ilya Kovalchuk or Marty Brodeur.
The Rangers’ superpest will make his playoffs debut tonight, as the Rangers look to rebound after a hard-fought Game 1 loss to Washington in overtime, Wednesday night.
Avery, who watched his minutes plummet in the second half of the season, could be just as important to the Rangers’ success tonight as anyone not named Henrik Lundqvist.
The biggest variable on if Avery will be a factor tonight has nothing to with the opposition, however.
If Avery is going to make a difference–let me rephrase that–a POSITIVE difference for the Rangers in their quest for the Cup, he’s going to have to play the way he knows he’s capable of.
I have been one of the biggest Avery supporters throughout his career, but there were times this season where even I couldn’t defend his spot in the lineup. It wasn’t that he was taking stupid penalties and putting the Rangers in jeopardy; but he simply wasn’t playing better than his replacements.
Whether that has something to do with the microscopic leash that John Tortorella has put around his pesky winger’s neck or not, Avery must be the first person to decide whether he’s going to have an impact tonight or not.
Wednesday night, it was clear that the Capitals were the superior physical team, whether it was Alexander Ovechkin tossing Brandon Dubinsky like he was a kid coming up from Juniors playing in his first NHL game; or whether it was the Rangers’ soft defensive presence around the crease which enabled Washington to score its first goal.
Adding Avery to the lineup gives the Rangers an element that they’re going to need to defeat the Capitals. Avery provides that sandpaper-esque edge to the game. When he maintains that ever-so fine line between crossing the edge and dipping one foot over it, Avery could be a disaster for the Capitals–especially Alexander Semin.
Besides his obvious physical and mental presence, Avery is actually pretty talented on the offensive side of the puck.
His stats might make you scratch your head after reading that, only tallying three goals and 21 assists on the year, but Avery has the ability to play a well-rounded offensive game.
However, as I stated earlier, none of this will matter if Avery isn’t the first person convinced that he’s going to have an impact tonight.
It all comes down to that dreadful over-used phrase when it comes to Avery; he must find the edge and play with one foot over it.