Saturday, April 7, 2012
Senators Get Rangers In First Round ... Torts Ready For War
A week ago, it was all but certain Ottawa would face the Bruins in the first round. Hotel rooms were booked, Google maps checked for Cheers and tickets bought for Fenway on the off-day. It would have taken a bizarre series of circumstances for the Senators to drop to 8th in the East and play the Rangers, but that's exactly what happened. There was an earthquake, a loss to the Devils, a stalled scoreboard clock, a Washington win, a player on the bench touching the puck, a series of concussions and a Panthers win that resulted in some mathematical algorithm which ensured an unforeseen 1st round matchup.
Also, the Senators simply stopped playing once they clinched the post-season.
So now what?
There's a lot of Senators fans thrilled at the idea of taking on the Rangers but you won't hear a hint of that coming from the players or the Senators organization. If you go by the regular season, Ottawa seems to match-up better against New York than Boston, but nobody wants to provide bulletin-board material for a team that was on the verge of winning the President's Trophy. How can you say you'd rather play the 1st place team than the 2nd? When you overthink the game, anything is plausible.
Ottawa is still the decided underdog going into this series, but like I said on Twitter, if there's one coach the referee's hate more than Paul MacLean, it's John Tortorella. That's worth at least one road victory in the first two games.
It will be a faster skating, less physical series than it would have been against the Bruins, and we'll also be treated to Tortorella's wonderful wit. Get ready for quotes like "I don't give a s**t about Erik Karlsson. I'm just worried about my team." Or "Spezza is the dirties f**in' player in the league and if MacLean has anything to say about it, tell him for me that I'll meet him in the parking lot and we'll settle this the old-fashioned way".
As with all playoff series, the goalies will decide this thing in the end and the Rangers have the best one in the league in Henrik Lundqvist. I know Jonathan Quick is in vogue right now but I'm guessing most GM's would take Lundqvist over Quick in a heartbeat. All would take Lundqvist over Craig Anderson to win a playoff series as well, but if the Senators goalie plays well enough to keep it close, Ottawa's offense can beat the Rangers over seven games. Will it? Nobody knows.
With Tortorella seemingly a living, walking, talking exposed nerve these days, this series is ripe for some serious off-ice drama if things don't go the Rangers way in the early going. If New York starts strong, expect Torts to keep his mouth shut, even against his best instincts.
Should be worth the wait.