Rangers vs. Senators – Forwards Preview

April 25, 2017, by


It’s been well-documented at this point that the Rangers ousted the Canadiens in the first round by prioritizing skill throughout their lineup at forward.  Montreal was a well-coached team with outstanding goaltending, but they were simply unable to match New York’s depth.

Though they employ a structured, defensive style of hockey, the Ottawa Senators pose a very different challenge for the Rangers to deal with in the second round of the playoffs.  Head coach Guy Boucher is well-known for not just his neutral zone trap, but also juggling his lines.

After watching much of their first round series with the Bruins, it seemed as though the only constant (besides Erik Karlsson being outrageous) was Boucher’s line juggling.  To wit:

The Senators, like many successful teams in the NHL, roll four lines that boast plenty of speed.  And while their one true game-breaker is a defenseman, there’s still quite a bit of skill up front that could give the Rangers’ defense corps fits.

Headlining the forward group is old friend Derick Brassard, whose 8 points are second in the NHL playoffs so far (side note: Evgeni Malkin has 11…what?!).  Brassard built his reputation as a clutch performer in New York, and has picked up right where he left off.  Paired often with Bobby Ryan, that’s a forward duo that can cause damage, particularly if they get a favorable matchup (say, against Nick Holden and Marc Staal).

The Senators also feature three legitimate snipers, with Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris and Mark Stone all boasting lethal wrist shots that can beat goalies clean.  Clarke MacArthur rounds out the top of Ottawa’s forward group.  A veteran in the midst of an inspiring comeback from multiple concussions, MacArthur has a knack for getting to the right spot and finishing, particularly on the power play.

The Senators’ depth forwards are deployed throughout the lineup in order to distribute the scoring wealth evenly.  Ryan Dzingel and Viktor Stalberg will often play in the top six while John-Gabriel Pageau commonly centers Stone and Hoffman.  After dealing with a lot of cheap shot artistry from Montreal, the Rangers should be well-prepared for any potential antics from Alexandre Burrows.

For the Rangers, they simply need to stick with what’s working.  It’s not a stretch to say that inserting Pavel Buchnevich for Tanner Glass and reuniting him with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider was the turning point in round one.  This enabled the Rangers to truly roll four skilled lines capable of handling any type of matchup.  The Rangers stood up to Montreal’s size and toughness and were able to drive play for most of the final three games of the series.

Still, they’ll need more from quite a few players.  Kevin Hayes and JT Miller couldn’t get much going until Game 6, and Derek Stepan’s lone goal of the opening round was scored into an empty net.  If those guys can raise their respective games to match the high levels of Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello and Zibanejad, the Rangers will be very tough to beat.

It’s difficult to handicap this matchup, as the forward groups are constructed in a similar fashion, though coached to play a very different way.  I believe the Rangers own a razor-thin advantage, due to superior depth; namely a “third line” that boasts the team’s two top scorers in Zuccarello and Miller.

For the Rangers, as always, their best defense is a good offense.

"Rangers vs. Senators - Forwards Preview", 5 out of 5 based on 14 ratings.
Categories : Forwards, Playoffs


  1. Stove says:

    NIce post, Rob. I am so damn excited for this Thursday. I dont mind not having home ice. I feel like we play a simpler game on the road and sometimes get frustrated early at home. Let’s hope for a strong start and a first goal to take the crowd out of it.

  2. amy says:

    this is going to be a classic and let’s take the crowd out of it like we did in Montreal and let’s make it easy on us

  3. SalMerc says:

    Senators forwards are a bit hard to gauge because of the up tempo play of their backline, which routinely joins the rush. Quite often, when they do have the puck deep, you feel like they have 4 forward, because they do!

    What we need to do is take advantage of these situations and use our team speed to break out and catch them deep with some odd man rushes of our own and capitalize on these. If Grabner and Kreider and Nash can bury those 3 on 2 rushes, we will be fine. If however, we try to over pass like we often do, we may miss those golden opportunities against a team that is better at hitting the twine that Montreal was.

  4. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    My only question: Will we see Chris Neil?

    • Becky says:

      He hasn’t played with any regularity since February, only playing again in their last game of the season when the majority of the starting forwards stayed back in Ottawa against the Isles. I would be floored if we see him (short of massive injuries, of course).

  5. Hatrick Swayze says:

    Top 3 goal scoring forwards this series?

    I say, Brassard/Kreider/Hoffman.

    • SalMerc says:

      Not a good sign for our side. I will say Grabner/Zucc/Karlsson/Zinbad.

      I am guessing Zinbad is going to be flying this series, as is Brassard.

  6. HARLEMBLUES says:

    My question is when is Stepan going to stop being a passenger. Stop watching while others drive, stop being a FCKN Prima Donna. Everyone tals about the young core not delivering but it’s our number one overrated center that hasn’t done a damn thing. No one says jack.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      I only enjoy big, manly, hunky centers who drive as well. Keep the femininity on the wings!

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      Final 25 games of the regular season–

      Stepan 5-9-14 +4
      Kreider 6-7-13 -3
      Miller 4-6-10 -4
      Hayes 2-5-7 -13

      Playoff history–

      (Since they have played different amount of games, lets base it on an average pro-rated to the same 25 game standard we used above, since that would be the equivalent of a run through the SCF)

      Stepan. 5-7-12. -4
      Kreider 7-5-12 -4
      Miller 1-9-10 +5
      Hayes 2-5-7 -3

      Of these four guys that seem to be the lightening rods, based on the stretch run this year and their past and current playoff performances, Stepan and Kreider have been our two most reliable performers of the four. Miller and Hayes have been underachievers. Miller has one playoff goal in his entire career…ONE! In 34 games!

      If you were going to bet money on guys most likely to produce going forward, I put my money on Stepan and Kreider WAY before I would on Miller and Hayes. And if I had to choose between Stepan and Kreider, I’d give the slight edge to Stepan because he’s scored one of the biggest goals in recent Rangers playoff history with the OT game winner vs the Caps in 2015.

      Let’s face it, all four have been painfully mediocre thus far. Rangers are going nowhere if they don’t step up.

      • SalMerc says:

        Meanwhile if you look at history, I never would have thought Nash would have scored any points, but he has turned into a big game player.

        Past performance cannot be used as an indicator of future performance or growth.

        • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

          Of course not. But if you look closer at Nash’s numbers, each year his playoff performance has gotten better. So this past round wasn’t really a surprise in that regard.

          Miller could go on a tear at any moment. Let’s hope he does. I’m just saying that thus far in his post-season career, he hasn’t done much.

      • HARLEMBLUES says:

        No E3 it’s simple Stepan our top number center who gets loads of Ozone starts,PP time did nothing at all against The Habs. E3 not the last 25 regular season games or past play offs. I’m clearly talking about the last 6 games. He’s slow doesn’t battle along the boards or go to the net doesn’t get dirty at all. Every Rangers showed up in a least one or more games. Hell,Tanner Glass won game one but our second highest paid forward did nothing. Lindbergh has been the Rangers best center through 6 games. Let’s what he does in game 7.

        • Walt says:


          Don’t bang your head against the wall, plenty of people wear blinders, and refuse to see the obvious staring them right in the eyes, out of loyalty. I made mention of Step’s weakness’s a long time ago, and you would have thought that the sky was falling from the reaction of some.

          The guy is a sweetheart, nice BOY from Minnesota, as a former neighbor Mrs Asher would say, who wears his panties too tight, and hates contact, and refuses to battle along the boards, or get his hands dirty at all.

          Lets see, he is slow as mill asses (acting up again)in February, weak along the boards, dumps the puck at the blue line as soon as gets near it, 50 feet or so, (smart ass that I am), refuses to ever drop the gloves, or get in the dirty areas, and for his puny production we have the luxury of paying him $6.5 mil per year. How can I get such a gig???????

          • Walt says:

            You want to see production, how’s this from a defensman,

            Karlsson had 17 goals and 54 assists, second in each category among NHL defensemen.

            And the Stepan supporters claim he is earning his keep, and is producing, now that’s a joke, on us!!!!!!!!!!

            • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

              I will say again…no one is staying that Stepan is playing well. He’s not. But neither are Kreider, Miller or Hayes.

              All four need to be much, much better.

          • Sully 55 says:

            He never improved on FO he gets crushed

  7. Richter1994 says:

    If the Rangers play the physical game they played against the Habs and the King maintains his brilliance then I think we should all feel pretty good about this series.

  8. pavel_burito says:

    I worry about this matchup.
    The “experts” at ESPN chose the Rangers as winning round 2 (except for one guy).
    And I’ve often observed that the team plays poorly when facing “weaker” competition. How many games this year to Add to bottom feeder teams did they lose because the Rangers turn into Globetrotters?
    More so than match ups and line combinations, I hope for proper motivation. Which is a lot to hope for, since that’s the one element that seems missing

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      Motivation seems missing? Based on what?

      Under AV, this team when healthy has dispatched every playoff foe they were supposed to have beaten.

      I’m not worried about focus or motivation. This is May (almost), not December. They will be fired up and focused.

      What I worry about is simply whether our so-called stars can put the puck in the net, and whether it will be up to Hank to have to play virtually perfect. Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to actually win a playoff game by, I don’t know, more than two goals just ONCE in a series so Hank isn’t required to stand on his head.

      Motivation is not the issue. Execution and finishing skills will determine if the Rangers advance or not.

  9. Chris F says:

    Holy crap, I miss Gary Thorne and Bill Clement. I was just rewatching the ’94 playoffs. Between those guys and the obvious Howie Rose “Matteau!” call and Sam Rosen’s “The waiting is over!” there were some damned memorable and iconic calls that run. Thorne and Clement were just awesome. I miss their voices.

  10. Rich S. says:

    Spot on comments my friend……

    Gets the most minutes regular shift and playoffs of any forward last 6 years.-regular season and playoffs…..very poor production….if we had traded him and kept Brassard we would be one of favorites to win it all!!!! IMHO!

  11. Rich S. says:

    3E ,
    Be honest the other 3….kreider, miller and hayes skate, hit, go into corners, drop the gloves, drive to the net…..all stepan does is stand in the slot waiting for someone to pass the puck to him…..very soft non productive player closing in on 30 years old….I have seen enough……from all ther comments , most rangers fans have seen enough!!!!

    • Spozo says:

      Closing in on 30 years old…..in 2021.

    • Bobby B says:

      Rich S, I agree with your analysis of Kreider & Miller, but Hayes is as soft as they come, I doubt he has ever drooped the gloves, and have you ever seen him throw a body check with some feeling behind it??? Stephan is a nice player, but no way a # 1 center, and for what he is getting paid, does not justify his production. He reminds me of a former Washington Capital center named Joe Juneau. He was the Caps # 1 center, a nice player, but come playoff time would disappear , all Messier had to do was stare at him , and the guy would piss in his pants.

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:


      You forgot one other characteristic of Miller and Kreider’s game in the first round—taking mindless penalties that nearly killed us.

      I’ll take Stepan’s hockey instincts over Kreider or Miller’s all day any day.

      I truly could not care less about what a player makes. The Rangers made the right call at the time, given the options they had at the time at center. Going forward with Stepan is a discussion for after the season is over.

      Miller and Kreider have far more upside than Stepan. That’s obvious. But are they Kovalev types–guys with all world skills and a ten cent hockey brain?

      We need all four of these guys to raise their game if we want to advance.

  12. Richter1994 says:

    Just read that the Habs out chanced the Rangers 63-37 in their series. That’s unacceptable and shows further proof that Lundqvist basically won this series for the team by himself.

    Hopefully the core forwards will show up this series and provide more breathing room and chances during the games.

    • Chris F says:

      No, no, no, no. C’mon man, that stat should’ve sounded ridiculous to you. A little research instead of passing around bad data like that.

      Rangers SCF: 134
      Canadiens SCF: 153

      In terms of high danger chances:

      Rangers HDCF: 54
      Canadiens HDCF: 59

      When you read an article that claims the Rangers only got 37 scoring chances over 6 games (an average of slightly above 6 per game) don’t you think to yourself that seems off? Did you not watch the series?

        • Richter1994 says:

          I’m not doubting you Chris, I was simply explaining why I didn’t think that stat sounded ridiculous to me.

          And yes, I watched every second of that series. Hayes passed up no less than 10 shots/scoring chances in the series. A huge one was in Game 3 with about 5 minutes to go in the game when he was in the slot 15 feet out and passed it up. That would have been the best scoring chance of the night to that point and if they scored there they might have been able to rally.

          Just from an overall standpoint, did you think that Price stood on his head like Lundqvist did? I think the obvious answer is “no way.” You may differ.

          • Richter1994 says:

            Sorry the best scoring chance was Kreider missing the tap in early in the game.

  13. Rich S. says:


    Did you forget , stepan took bad penalty in game 3 ? or 4 ? that led to pp goal!!!
    I dont mind players getting penalties…..thats up to ref’s and what they call and what they dont call????????/ its a crapshoot,

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      There’s a difference between taking a penalty and taking a STUPID penalty. Miller touches the puck with his hand off the face off. Gets called for it and they score. One of the reasons we lost the game. After the game he angrily refuses to talk about it.

      Then last game, he gets outworked in the o-zone. No biggy…it happens. So then he hunts down the guy who took the puck from him and slashes him!

      Selfish, stupid, unnecessary penalties that, in the regular season, would have earned him a demotion or a benching. He is very talented but is still an extremely immature player.

      Kreider’s high stick to the face was totally unnecessay in that situation. That was a hockey 101 player. Lazy and stupid–emblematic of a player who all too often lacks focus.

      The flip side is that both of these guys, when they are on their game, can be difference makers. They haven’t come close to being that in over two months now. No more excuses for these supposed “Untouchables”…the time to produce is now. If not, I suspect this summer, Gorton may re-think whether or not these guys are worth building around. I have serious doubts.

  14. Rich S. says:

    Bobby B,
    Agree hayes for his size is somewhat soft , but i actually saw him get in someones face behind habs goal last game……andhe does go to the corners to battle for pucks and is not afraid of contact BUT I would love to see his 6-5 230 lbs to start crunching some defensemen……if only Zuc were that big he would be ovechkin!!!

  15. Rangers Rock says:

    I don’t like that Bastard. He would not check unless he got mad. He is a stupid french fry. I can’t wait to see him lose. We we!