The New York Rangers made their stand and managed to qualify for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist helped keep them in games with consistently spectacular play, the kind of thing Rangers fans have grown accustomed to during his heralded career. While offseason acquisition Rick Nash helped power the New York Rangers offense, the Blueshirts still found themselves needing something as the shortened regular season came to a close. So, they dealt Marion Gaborik to Columbus at the trade deadline, looking to fortify their depth and grit with a mix of other forwards. Coach John Tortarella is notorious for implementing a grinding, defensive style that can wear on his own players as much as their opponents. The Rangers are surely hoping fresh legs and an aggressive mindset will give their playoff opponents something to think about.
But what the first-round opponent Washington Capitals will be thinking about most often is how to overcome the talented Lundqvist’s ability to takeover a series and steal multiple games for a sometimes underwhelming New York Rangers offense. One key weakness in front of Lundqvist is the long-term injury of defenseman Marc Staal, who took a hard slapshot to the eye earlier this year. While Staal attempts to regain full, clear vision and get back on the ice, the Rangers will try to compensate against the talents of MVP-candidate Alexander Ovechkin. This Washington Capitals team, like the Rangers, once faced the threat of not making the playoffs. Because the Caps play in a weaker division, they managed to secure a higher seed and home ice advantage at the Verizon Center in round one. The New York Rangers don’t fear 2013 Stanley Cup Playoff games on the road, though; the best way to silence a crowd is shutting down an offense, and the Rangers have a big advantage in that department in round one of the NHL Playoffs and beyond.
The Rangers finished in a tightly-packed back half of the 2013 NHL Playoffs‘ Eastern Conference seeding. While they will probably not have home-ice advantage in any round, they can still rely on the Madison Square Garden crowd to provide energy three games/series.