Playoff hockey begins (for real) today. Forget about Wednesday, we’re all waiting for today and the Pens vs. Rangers series opener. Let’s have a muse to kick the playoffs off shall we?

Is it me or have an unusually high amount of teams got serious injury headaches this spring? The Rangers can consider themselves relatively lucky that they will enter the Pens series ‘only’ missing Kevin Klein. You look at an offensively shallow Montreal Canadiens squad missing their top scorer (Pacioretty) or the Penguins who are practically missing an entire D. The Rangers enter the playoffs healthy and that’s a huge bonus.

Player I’m rooting for: Martin St Louis. Has had a lot of criticism this year (some of it deservedly). He could be a huge difference maker for the Rangers.

My favourite ‘new’ Ranger is Jesper Fast. The rookie has played the game the right way all year. He makes smart plays, he worked his way into the line-up, eventually earning more ice time and is exactly the kind of depth player that you see make a difference in the tight playoff style games. Fast will be important against the Pens powerplay and we’re yet to see his best offensive side either. It may be worth noting that (albeit in a small sample size) Fast was almost a point per game playoff producer toward the end of his time in Sweden.

The playoffs are often where players have their coming out parties. I get the sense that if the Rangers are going to win the Cup; Chris Kreider may finally arrive as a bonafide upper echelon power forward.

People always talk about Glen Sather’s free agency mess ups. Well an initially minor, under the radar signing that’s turned out to be rather huge is Matt Hunwick. He’s certainly had his shaky moments this season but generally speaking, the Rangers have gotten great mileage out of Hunwick, to the point where most people are more than comfortable with him in the six spot to open the playoffs. He’s a great example of quality depth and has been a quality injury fill-in. Assuming his demands are within reason expect to see Hunwick next year too.

Kneejerk reaction of the week: The Bruins sacked a quality GM in Peter Chiarelli this week. Given the potential candidates for his replacement may include a few members of the Rangers organisation, this could seriously affect the Rangers this summer.

Alain Vigneault recently said this about Rick Nash in the playoffs last year: “Last year, I thought Rick was finding ways to contribute”. Well said AV. Yes, Nash is here for his scoring but Nash was good last spring even if he wasn’t 7.8m/year good. The Rangers will obviously be in a better position to succeed if he scores more this time around but people shouldn’t panic if Nash doesn’t fill the net right off the bat. This team can beat you with a variety of weapons.

So where do the Rangers enjoy the biggest advantage? Clearly it’s on defense. It’ll be interesting to see how the Penguins try and protect their shallow defense. The Rangers need to get on top of the Pens defense early and often.

So the Rangers are meeting college UFA and highly sought after goalie Matt O’Connor. I’d be stunned if the college kid signed with the Rangers given their depth in goal but two trails of thought; could it be any kind of indication that the Rangers are really ready to move Cam Talbot and secondly, it’s good to see the team is still active in trying to replenish the system despite a lack of draft picks. It’s that kind of proactive, creative organisational development that has turned the Rangers into a contender.

Question Time:

  • Who will lead the Rangers in scoring during the playoffs?
  • Has Cam Talbot played his last game as a Ranger?
  • Stepan or Brassard: which center is more important this spring and why?
  • How many goals will Rick Nash score in the playoffs?
  • The Rangers will win the Cup because __________?


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