Rangers Take the Senators in a Thrilling Game Seven; Look to Knock Out Capitals


The Rangers look to continue their success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Brian Jasinski/The Observer)


The Rangers look to continue their success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Brian Jasinski/The Observer)

With top-seeded teams dropping like flies in a Stanley Cup Playoffs crowded with talent, the New York Rangers took a stand at home in a decisive game seven. Once down in the series three games to two, the Blueshirts fought hard to win in Ottawa 3-2 on April 23 and bring the series back to New York, where they made certain that both number one seeds wouldn’t face an early exit.

As the Rangers’ faithful fans have come to expect, the hard-fought win was spearheaded by a fantastic effort from goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who had 26 saves on 27 shots, including a hope-killer for Ottawa fans with five minutes to go, blocking an at-the-net attempt from the Senators’ Kyle Turris. For a team that ended the season in the top five for both goals against and penalty kill percentage, it came as no surprise that a low-scoring, tenaciously-defended effort sprung them to the second round. In fact, it was defensemen that scored both goals for the Rangers, with Dan Girardi notching what was both the deciding goal and his first in an NHL playoff game.

Being that they are the highest remaining seed, the Rangers current series is against the lowest-remaining-seed Washington Capitals, who won their own thriller of a first-round game seven in overtime against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins, in Boston. In the seven game series, the Capitals won two of their four games by scoring four goals. Such a feat may be difficult to come by when playing the Rangers, who averaged only 2.2 goals allowed per game all season, and even less in the postseason’s opening round (1.7). A victory over the Capitals would be especially satisfying for the Rangers, who have been knocked out of the playoffs by Washington in both of their last two qualifying seasons.

While the Rangers can stand confident in having faced a bit of adversity early on, the Capitals have been fighting off bleak circumstances for a month now. On March 27, Washington saw itself on the outside looking in, out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference and having to hope that the Buffalo Sabers didn’t win out to end the season. They’ve fought hard in every game since, twice needing a win in Boston to keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive, and, against all odds, are still in it. If they know anything about the playoffs, the Rangers will know better than to consider this red-hot team as a free ticket to the next round. Through the first two games of the series, all trends hold up. The Rangers and Capitals are knotted up at one game apiece, .500 against one another just as they were during the regular season, and Lundqvist has only allowed a total of three goals.

However this series ends, the season has been impressive for New York so far. By advancing to the conference semifinals, the Rangers have already made it as far as they have at any point in the last fourteen seasons. Lundqvist, the team’s MVP for five years running, posted the best win percentage of his career this season, and is only 30 years old. Even if they get bounced by Washington, this team has plenty of promise for the coming seasons. Their top-seeded finish and first-round playoff-series victory are bound to be valuable experiences going forward.

One thing is for certain: If the Rangers can make it out of the conference semis, they have as good a shot as anyone to take home the trophy come the end of the tournament. They are guaranteed home-ice advantage as long as they’re in the tournament and will likely be a difficult obstacle for any opponent as long as Vezina Trophy-favorite Lundqvist can maintain his stellar play.