The abbreviated 2012-2013 National Hockey League regular season has ended and the Stanley Cup playoffs are upon us. We here at NYRNation.net are glad you are along for the playoff ride. Check back here daily for constant updates on the New York Rangers as they try to get that awful taste of “1994” out of their mouths and add another one of Lord Stanley’s trophy to the Garden mantle.
Before I get to some observations, thoughts and a prediction, I just wanted to point out some moments from an exciting regular season. There will be some from around the league and some about the New York Rangers. So without further ado, here’s what stood out to me in this past NHL regular season:
It was an amazing turnaround for the Southeast Division Champion, Washington Capitals. The team was left for dead as star forward Alexander Ovechkin got off to a horrid start. New head coach, Adam Oates, was quite possibly going to lose his job and the team seemed destined for the lottery. Then, a two game stay in Winnipeg against the Jets on back to back nights in March changed all that. The Caps outscored the Jets 10-1. “Ovie” had three goals in the 2 games. Something happened in the frigid cold of Alberta during that trip, but I think the Capitals should look into trade marking the phrase “What Happens in Winnipeg, Stays in Winnipeg, Eh?”
The Detroit Red Wings made the playoffs…again. Big deal you say? It is. It is now 22 years in a row that the Wings have made a playoff appearance. I remember back to my street hockey days in the early 90’s, a friend of mine went out and got a Steve Yzerman jersey. Growing up in New Jersey, no one wore Red Wings jerseys. My buddy wasn’t a big hockey fan, but for some reason, he liked the logo and the colors. I asked him why Detroit. He said I think they are going to be good for a little while. Scott was never a big sports fan so he was just talking out his backside. These days, I am guessing Scott has probably won a few NCAA Tournament brackets just by picking the colors.
Although I am not a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, I would still like to see Sidney Crosby go more than about 30 games without an injury. He came into the league under a lot of scrutiny and wasn’t the most popular guy on the planet, but he earned a lot of respect during the lockout by being involved in negotiations and getting us some part of a season. As for his bad luck, urban legend says that he didn’t have “tea” with old Miss McGill back in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
As for the New York Rangers, C Derek Stepan (mentioned numerous times in pieces here at NYRNation.net) has emerged as a top 6 player in this league. At 22, to lead a team in scoring with 44 points in outstanding. And that is saying something about his ability when you have guys like Rick Nash, Brad Richards and T.A.F.K.A.M.G, the artist formerly known as Marian Gaborik. It will be fun to see what he can do for a full season in 2013-2014.
Apparently head coach John Tortorella didn’t get my memo about getting Henrik Lundqvist a breather down the stretch. I know the team needed wins, but there was no reason that back-up Martin Biron couldn’t play the third period in the 8-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres on April 19th. Should the Rangers and Capitals series just go 4 games that will be 18 straight for “The King”.
Ranger’s fans had to be pleased that the team didn’t end up in the eight spot and have to face the Penguins. Now that Peter Forsberg looks like his playing days in the NHL are over, Jarome Iginla is my favorite non-Rangers player in hockey along with Phoenix Coyotes Captain, Shane Doan. I would have hated to have had to face an extra motivated Iginla in the first round on a team in Pittsburgh that has a chance to win it all, with or without Crosby.
Who among us didn’t sit there quietly and nod their heads in amusement as the Rangers eliminated the New Jersey Devils a couple Saturday’s ago? That was only topped by the 4-0 shutout the Rangers laid on the defending Eastern Conference Champions a week later in the last game of the season. Watching Devils RW Ilya Kovalchuk try and play defense on the Ryan Callahan breakaway and a few other plays throughout that last game had to remind New York Knicks fans of Amar’e Stouamire, yes Stouamire , because the “D” is missing.
Now, as for the first round series itself, the Capitals and Rangers are no strangers to one another in the post-season. I look for a hard fought and physical series. New York won twice in regulation and dropped the third meeting in a shootout to Washington. Home ice advantage doesn’t mean much in the NHL. It likely won’t here either. While the Caps are playing some great hockey right now and the Rangers are scoring at a higher clip heading into the match-up that starts Wednesday night at the Verizon Center in D.C., I look for a Rangers team that has the edge in goaltending to win the series in 6.
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