Archive for Playoffs
The table is set for another round of the Penguins and the Rangers, who seem to meet in the playoffs as often as the Caps and the Rangers. This time around, it will be old friend Mike Sullivan, who was an assistant with the Rangers during the John Tortorella days, behind the bench in Pittsburgh. The change in coach means a change in system from the last time they met in the first round (last year).
The biggest change for the Penguins is that they are run a more aggressive style of play compared to Mike Johnston last year. They are more like Dan Bylsma’s Penguins in this regard, even without half their roster, as Pat pointed out. But even without key players, the Penguins enter the playoffs red hot and have really adopted this new style of play effectively.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas – the NHL postseason is upon us and that means it’s time to preview the upcoming first round series between the Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers have met the penguins in the playoffs more times in recent memory than any other team save the Caps, so this is sure to be a heated series. While the playoffs have a tendency to be unpredictable the Penguins have been one of the hottest teams in the league of the past several months, making this a particularly difficult matchup. Nonetheless, the Rangers do have their strengths, so let’s get down to it.
Although the Penguins perhaps have stronger individual players up front (Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel come to mind), the Rangers certainly have the Penguins beat when it comer to forward depth. Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg both sat out the last game of the season but should be good to go for the playoffs, and with those two players back in the lineup the Rangers four lines are more or less set.
The schedule for the Rangers/Penguins matchup has been released. As expected, they will play Game One on Wednesday, April 13. Also as expected, NBC wants the Rangers as their game du jour, to they won’t play Game Two until Saturday at 3pm. But not expected is the two days off between games two and three. Weird. Full schedule below:
- Game 1 @ Pittsburgh, April 13 (8pm)
- Game 2 @ Pittsburgh, April 16 (3pm)
- Game 3 @ MSG, April 19 (7pm)
- Game 4 @ MSG, April 21 (time TBD)
- Game 5* @ Pittsburgh, April 23 (time TBD)
- Game 6* @ MSG, April 25 (time TBD)
- Game 7* @ PIT, April 27 (time TBD)
After last night’s loss to the Islanders, the Rangers no longer control their own destiny for playoff opponent. The Isles are now tied with the Rangers in points, but have a game in hand. The Rangers hold the tiebreaker (regulation/OT wins), so the Isles will need to finish ahead of the Rangers in points to take third in the division.
Since the Isles have the game in hand, they need three points in those final two games to ensure they finish ahead of the Rangers in the standings. If that happens, then the Rangers are going to drop to the first wild card spot and move to the Atlantic for the playoffs. That means a first round date with the Atlantic Division champion Florida Panthers.
With Dylan McIlrath healthy, the Rangers now have a full roster ready for the playoffs. While it is likely that McIlrath and Oscar Lindberg remain healthy scratches until a spot –or home ice– is clinched, it is equally likely that Alain Vigneault rests some of his older players in preparation for the playoffs.
Dan Boyle and Dan Girardi are the two immediate players that come to mind when it comes to resting veterans. Girardi is playing on one healthy knee and Boyle is about 800 years old. It helps that McIlrath is a right-handed shot, so he can slide right into the lineup without any major changes.
With last night’s win against Florida, the Rangers sit in second place in the Metro Division with 90 points and nine games left to play. Even at a .500 record, the Rangers will finish with 99 points, so they are virtually assured a playoff spot at this point. What is left to determine is seeding, as the only thing set in stone is Washington as the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
The Rangers can finish anywhere from second in the Metro to seventh in the conference as the first wild card team. I don’t think they fall to the bottom wild card spot, as Detroit and Philly are too far back with too few games remaining. Even so, that leaves the Rangers with four potential first round matchups this year, depending on how the cards fall.
As we get closer to the playoffs, the biggest question on everyone’s mind has shifted from “Will they make the playoffs?” to “Can this team make a run?” The answer changes based on the last game the Rangers played, and if you were to ask any fan yesterday, the answers would undoubtedly be negative.
But let’s get one thing out of the way: The Rangers are simply jockeying for position right now. They will make the playoffs. The argument can be made that they are actually better off sliding to the first wild card spot –they won’t, they will stay in the top three in the division– and move to the Atlantic, where they won’t have to face Washington until the Conference Finals. But either way, they are in the playoffs.
There are still 36 games left in the 2015-2016 regular season, but thanks to the new playoff format, it’s not too difficult to forecast some playoff matchups.
The Washington Capitals hold an 18-point lead for the Metro Division crown and would all but have to go on a three-week team vacation to the Maldives to give any of their rivals a chance at catching them. Behind them, just a point separates the the Rangers and Islanders as the current No. 2 and No. 3 seeds. The two clubs are likely to jockey back and forth for position down the stretch, but it seems like fate that they will clash in the opening round of the 2016 postseason.
Last Saturday was a very, very strange day in Rangersland. So many of us were either angry, or in denial, or still numb to the incredulous feeling of losing a Game 7 at the Garden. I thought for sure one thing would be true, with 2012 as a good indicator: the 2014-15 NHL season was over.
Laying out beside a pool with two of my diehard Ranger fan friends, we went through most of the motions of grieving. There was anger, questioning, bargaining, heck I think I got choked up once or twice… but then something strange happened. We remembered that there was a Game 7 that night, and we made plans to head out that night to watch it.
How could that be? We’re Rangers fans, man, this was our year. We can’t watch anymore. The only benefit of losing in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final is that after that, it was over, there was no worrying about who you wanted to win the Cup. Sadly, last year also taught us that the offseason is very, very long. When you get excited to watch a replayed TOR-ANA game live in a bar in Toronto, you know the withdrawal is real.
Although the grieving period for many Rangers fans is still in some of the early stages, hockey continues on tonight with Game One of the Stanley Cup Final. At least one former Ranger will hold Lord Stanley’s Cup in victory within the next two weeks, and here at BSB, we guess which one(s) that is.
Suit and Justin were still too upset to predict.
Dave’s Pick: Blackhawks in 7. Both teams are skilled, fast, and deep. Both teams have issues on the blue line. Both teams have question marks in net. The Bolts are weak on the blue line after their top pair, and the Hawks have four defensemen that don’t get Stu Bickel’d. In the end, I think experience wins over the new kids.
Chris’ Pick: Blackhawks in 6. Both teams are skilled fast and deep… hold on, Dave already said that? Well it’s true. Arguably the two best offensive teams in the league are the last teams standing but you can never have too much experience and the Hawks will not be fazed for one second, given they’re on the cusp of a modern day dynasty. Tampa can take over games and Johnson and Stamkos are every bit the match for the Hawks top end talent but in Toews, the Hawks have the best leader in hockey, in Keith they have a stud on the blueline at the very top of his game. This figures to be a high scoring affair, and I give the edge to Chicago. If they start fast, it could be done in 5.
Kevin’s Pick: Blackhawks in 7. Tampa has been very impressive all year, but you have to go with experience, right? I keep going back and forth on this because I envision the Triplets stealing a game or two by themselves, which would make things really interesting. But in the end, I’m not picking against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith.
Becky’s Pick: Blackhawks in 6. I’m a completely biased fan, but after watching a lot of Central Division hockey (c/o being a casual Blues fan), I have seen what the Blackhawks are capable of. Coach Quenneville is not afraid to put in his backup goalie if he feels unsure about Corey Crawford, and as special as the Triplets and Anton Stralman-Victor Hedman are, Ben Bishop looked shaky at best despite shutting out the Rangers in Game 7. Jonathan Toews is the definition of clutch, and he’s been here several times. The Hawks are speedy and can throw some hits. I think they’ll take it in five, but let’s be safe and say six.
The Suit’s Pick: Tampa in 7. Stanley Cups often come down to goaltending and I’m betting on Bishop to rebound this series and steal it from Chicago. Chicago’s deeper, more offensively gifted, yada, yada, yada, but I think Tampa will pull off the upset. Beating the best team in the NHL (cough, cough) may have put enough wind back in their sails to weather the storm. I’ll be rooting for them.