Category: Playoffs

First round schedule

The NHL has announced the schedule for the first round, which begins Thursday at MSG:

  • Game 1: Thursday 4/17 – 7PM  | MSG
  • Game 2: Sunday 4/20 – 12PM  | NBCSN
  • Game 3: Tuesday 4/22 – 8PM  | MSG
  • Game 4: Friday 4/25 – 7PM  |MSG
  • Game 5: Sunday 4/27 – 12PM | NBCSN
  • Game 6: Tuesday 4/29 – TBD  | MSG
  • Game 7: Wednesday 4/30 – TBD  | MSG

First Round Playoff Preview: Rangers vs. Flyers

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

War is upon us. On the eve of War. The Rangers set to battle Philly. Pretty much every title for this post I could think of had the word ‘battle’ or ‘war’ in it. Nothing against Ottawa, DC, or other markets we have squared off with in recent first rounds, but Philadelphia brings a different connotation.

The history of this rivalry is too long and colorful to recap in one post and certainly no one needs a history lesson here. However, for the first time since 1997, these two teams will have a chance to send each other home packing. And unlike other potential playoff matchups, this one could get theatrical.

No matter who has the GM title, who’s behind the bench, or what players suit up in orange, black and white, the identity of the Flyers remains the same.  However, unlike I-95 wars of seasons past, the Rangers have to stay within their team concept and not stoop down to their level. They have to stick to their game plan.

Offense:

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New playoff format set to pour gasoline on old rivalries

We might be seeing a whole lot of this ugly face in the coming weeks

Pretty much since the moment I first heard about realignment, I wasn’t a fan. It seemed silly to me to dramatically restructure the league when more changes might have to be made in short order due to relocation or expansion (although the likelihood of that has been reduced). I thought it was unfair that both Eastern Conference divisions housed an additional team, reducing each member’s chances of making the playoffs. And don’t even get me started on the new division names.

But worst of all is the new playoff format. It makes no sense to me that three teams from each division are guaranteed playoff spots regardless of whether Team 3 in Division A has 45 points and Team 6 in Division B has 85 points (hypothetically).

That’s not to say the new system is without advantages. I like that each team now plays every other team twice a season, and I do see the advantages of making travel time closer to equal for each franchise. But overall, I would have preferred to keep the old format to preserve the 1-8 playoff system if nothing else.

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Rangers clinch playoff spot with Devils loss last night

Some people will call this “backing into” the playoffs, but with the Devils loss last night, the Rangers have officially clinched a playoff spot. I say some people call it backing in because the Rangers still have three games left, so it’s not like they needed the loss. It just helped them clinch sooner. The magic number to clinch a non-wild card seed is down to four on Columbus. The magic number to clinch home ice against the Flyers in round one is still at six.

As long as the Rangers get a #2 or #3 seed, they will guarantee that they will not meet the Bruins until the Conference Finals. Since a first round matchup with the Flyers is all but guaranteed at this point, it appears the road to the Stanley Cup Finals will begin against Philly, then head to Pittsburgh in the second round, and then finally to Boston for the Conference Finals. That, of course, assumes wins by the favorites in each round.

Remember that horrible start? It seems like a distant memory. The Rangers crawled out of the cellar to be one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference heading into the playoffs. New York is also third in the conference in goal differential as well. This is a team that not many want to see in the postseason.

Scouting the Playoffs: the Boston Bruins

Hockey.

Hockey.

With the playoffs on our doorstep, reminding us that our Rangers have yet to clinch a spot, it’s time to continue our look ahead at teams that we’ll definitely be seeing through late April at the very least.  Though the focus has been mostly on the west, the East is also somewhat settled up. The reigning Eastern Conference champs, the Boston Bruins, have been in destruction mode all season and don’t seem to be letting up.

The Bruins, cashing in with 113 points as of today, are making quick work of nearly everyone who comes their way. Much like last year in the playoffs, they’re a terrifying group to look at, which is useful as the Rangers come down the home stretch and need them to make work of rivals like the Flyers. With their defeat of Philly yesterday, they clinched the best record in the East and home ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference finals, something that’s a huge deal as they’ve got the best home record in all of hockey.

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Magic numbers and the importance of clinching early

Six points in three games please.

Six points in three games please.

With Columbus’s loss to Chicago last night, the Rangers magic number to clinch a non-wild card playoff spot is down to just four. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is one (meaning they can clinch tonight as long as the game gets to overtime). The magic number to clinch home-ice against the Flyers is seven. With five games remaining, the Rangers are all but guaranteed two of these, but home-ice will take a few days to clinch.

The Rangers have three gimme’s of their four remaining games: Three home games against Ottawa, Carolina, and Buffalo. Those are three games where they should gain six points, assuming they don’t throw in the towel like they did the last time they played against Carolina. Those six points are pretty crucial for the playoffs. It guarantees them a non-wild card playoff spot, and –at the very least– gets them to one point of home-ice in the first round.

Why is all this important?

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Examining the teams in the race for the final playoff spots

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.03.19 PMOn Monday, Dave pointed out that though things have seemed a little hairy lately, the team’s playoff chances were still at 94.4% according to SportsClubStats.  Those odds improved to 97.9% after New York beat Phoenix in overtime and Philadelphia lost in regulation to Los Angeles on Monday night, and St. Louis beat Toronto, the Capitals lost to the Kings in a shootout and the Blue Jackets beat the Red Wings on Tuesday.

In other words, barring a monumental collapse, the Rangers will be in the postseason.  Of course, we’re still inclined to worry about the supposed 2.1% chance that does happen, so I figured we ought to check in on the teams that could ruin New York’s spring.

Philadelphia Flyers

If you thought the Rangers had a bad start to the year, then what would you say about the Flyers, who fired their coach after just three games?  But the Flyers have really been among the league’s better teams for several months.  Claude Giroux leads the way for Philly, averaging over a point per game, but the Flyers also have six other players with 15+ goals on the year.  As always, Philly has a high-powered offense, but – and this won’t surprise you – the Flyers’ Achilles heel is their goaltending and team defense.  Steve Mason and Ray Emery have combined to give up an average over 2.8 goals per game.  Philadelphia will visit the Blueshirts tonight in a game with huge implications, and the Flyers still have tough games left against Boston (twice), St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

Points: 83 Games remaining: 11 Home/road split: 5/6

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Playoffs in sight

Photo: Brad Penner, USA Today

Photo: Brad Penner, USA Today

I have a feeling that the title of this post is going to draw a lot of ire across Rangerland. After all, I’m clearly jinxing them, and now the team is going to lose all ten remaining games and miss out. But let’s just get this out of the way: This team is headed to the playoffs barring an epic collapse. SportsClubStats has them at 94.4% for making the playoffs, so at this point they are just jockeying for position.

Why is that percentage so high? For starters, New York has a three point lead on the Washington Capitals with ten games remaining. Certainly not a lock, but the Rangers the tiebreaker (ROW) on the Caps, so they would need to gain four more points than our Blueshirts in the next ten games to take over the three seed. Possible, but not probable. Columbus, who has a game in hand on the Rangers/Caps, are four points out. The Rangers have the tiebreaker on them as well.

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Rangers/Bruins series: Where it was lost and where it could have been won

Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Barton Silverman/The New York Times

The Rangers ran out of steam yesterday, and bowed out of the 2013 playoffs with a disappointing 4-1 series loss to the Bruins. Many were excited to play the Bruins because of the regular season success over the past few years, but this Rangers club was not up to the task of making this series interesting. The Rangers were, for the second year in a row, victimized by the opposition’s fourth line. The Bruins depth is what beat the Rangers.

The Bruins did get their fair share of luck (see: Game Three game winning goal), but that wasn’t the only factor to their series win. They were better in every facet of the game, and they beat a very vulnerable Rangers team. Unlike against the Caps, the Rangers were simply unable to get key plays when they needed them, and are now waiting until next season.

Where it was lost: Depth

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Goal breakdown: Bruins send Rangers home with Game 5 win

Well, it was fun while it lasted. The Bruins –the better team throughout the series– sent the Rangers home today with a 3-1 win in Game Five. Torey Krug was an absolute killer in this series, and he scored the game tying goal in this game. That’s the season, so here’s the final goal breakdown of the year:

Rangers 1, Bruins 0

Lots of things done right on this shift.

Lots of things done right on this shift.

The Rangers scored on the powerplay for the second game in a row.

Ok, now that this has sunk in, the Rangers didn’t really have a strong powerplay shift until this goal. Michael Del Zotto started by fighting off a forechecker and making a one-handed pass to Chris Kreider in the defensive zone. Kreider skated through and dumped the puck in, and more importantly, took a hit on the chase to move the puck to the weak side. Dan Girardi eventually wound up with the puck, and drew Danny Paille to him while flipping a backhanded pass to Mats Zuccarello between the top of the circle and the blue line. At this point, Gregory Campbell cheats down a bit, and Girardi reads this and gets in a position to shoot at the point. His one-timer went through everyone, including a Brian Boyle screen in front, and to the back of the net.

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