It was a bumpy ride, but the Rangers sealed the deal on Thursday with a win over Carolina, and locked up a six seed with their blanking of the Devils. The Rangers rode a 10-3-1 run in April to leapfrog two teams and keep the Jets out. Now, it’s on to another date with the Caps in Washington in the first round of the playoffs. Since there’s a lot going through my mind, I figure a random Sunday thoughts post is fitting:
- The Rangers have played the Caps in the playoffs in 2012 (2nd round, won 4-3), 2011 (first round, loss 4-1), and 2009 (first round, loss 4-3). This year makes it three years in a row, four years in five, and each season since 2009 that the Rangers have made the playoffs. Think that’s a lot? Just wait until they are in the same division next year.
- The Rangers sure are hot at the right time. That 10-3-1 April launched them from 16-15-13 to 26-18-4, second in the Atlantic Division, and a +18 goal differential. They scored 51 goals in April, an average of 3.6 goals per game. That’s absurd.
- Expect a lot of injury news to come out before the playoffs begin (either Tuesday or Wednesday). Ryane Clowe, Brian Boyle, and Marc Staal will likely return in some capacity, and their returns make this team incredibly deep and a pain to play against. Staal will be critical, as he has a lot of success in shutting down Alex Ovechkin.
- The player, aside from Staal, whose return is most critical to a Rangers series win? Brian Boyle. He’s really turned it on defensively as of late, and the Rangers need him on the PK.
- Seriously, I’m beginning to hate Braden Holtby. I didn’t want to face him last year, and I really don’t want to face him this year.
- The Columbus
RangersBlue Jackets barely missed the playoffs. You want a team I don’t want to see in the division next year? Columbus is that team. Their addition to the division (with Washington) will likely knock two of the Devils, Flyers, and Islanders out of the playoff picture until their teams become more well-rounded.
- One last note about Staal and this crazy “he’s going to Carolina so trade him now” nonsense. If he’s going to Carolina, he has to wait until the end of the 2014-2015 season. The Rangers are not trading a top pairing, shutdown defenseman who is on a $3.975 million contract for the next two seasons, especially when next year’s cap goes down. Staal’s contract provides incredibly flexibility for the Rangers, and it’s something they need during their window to win the Cup.
Anyway, welcome to playoff hockey again. For those new here, we will dedicate the next two days to breaking down the series and the Caps. Stay tuned over the next two days.