After four games, these two teams are deadlocked at 2-2 and it is now a best of three series. What should we expect here on out?
The Ottawa Senators entered this series in the eighth seed and the underdog to the New York Rangers’ first place finish. Each game has been very closely contested and has seen its share of speed, aggression, volatility and great goaltending.
The Rangers took game one in New York by the widest margin of victory in the series to date, a 4-2 win. The Sens stole home ice advantage with an overtime win in game two.
Game two had several story lines of note as both Matt Carkner and Zenon Konopka were inserted to Ottawa’s lineup. Carkner made his presence felt immediately as he atoned for Brian Boyle punching Erik Karlsson in game one, while Brandon Dubinsky was ejected for being the third man in as he came to Boyle’s defense after he was jumped by Carkner and pummeled in the corner.
Later in the game, there was another violent incident as Carl Hagelin delivered an elbow to the head of Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson, who left the game. Hagelin received a five-minute major. The Sens scored on the ensuing power play and carried the momentum to a win.
The consequences of the hit were further felt by the Rangers as Hagelin was then dealt a three game suspension. The Sens lost their captain however, as he suffered a concussion on the hit and did not play in either game three or four in Ottawa and will not travel to New York for game five either.
With the Series tied 1-1, game three was in Ottawa and despite Ottawa being the more assertive team, they were unable to solve Henrik Lundqvist. Brian Boyle scored the winner and restored home ice advantage to New York.
Game four again went to overtime after the Rangers jumped out to a two-goal lead. The Senators showed great resilience and tied the game up with two goals in the second. Kyle Turris was the overtime hero, scoring the game-winning goal with a pretty shot into the top corner.
The Senators lost Jesse Winchester in game four and may look to their prospects to replace the vacancy on the wing. Mark Stone was participating in the team practice on Friday morning and is the logical choice. Swedish prospect Jakob Silfverberg will be joining the team in Ottawa on Sunday to give the team another option for game six.
Now with only three games remaining, if this series goes the distance, two of them will be held in New York. Home ice has not been a factor in the series so far, so what may tip the balance one way or the other?
Obviously goaltending has been a deciding factor; if either goalie falters there is simply no margin for error. The potential return of either Daniel Alfredsson or Hagelin’s return in game six may also have an influence for their team.
Rookie Chris Kreider has made his debut for the Rangers in this series. Coach Tortorella has been impressed and is playing him on the top line. Will the Sens debut their rookie Stone and/or Silfverberg? Both have the ability and skill to have an impact and be a difference maker in this series.
At this time, the only thing that is clear is this has been a tremendous series and has been much closer than the conference seeding gap would indicate. It has gone from a best-of-seven to a best of three series. The home ice advantage has exchanged sides as the series momentum has in this closely contested battle. This is likely going to go all the way to game seven, and if we are all lucky, to overtime and a next goal wins scenario.
Peter Harling of Harling Fantasy Hockey covers the Ottawa Senators for The Hockey Writers. Peter also writes for fantasy hockey coach contributing to the annual draft guide and author of the Fantasy Hockey in Canada column and Hockey Tracker