BY CHAYIM TAUBER
As predicted, the Rangers and Senators have waged a war over the past two weeks and it will all come to a head tonight. The Rangers and Senators; one game to determine the outcome of an entire season and the culmination of a series that, though it ended exactly where we thought it would, took an unexpected ride to get there.
This series has been nothing short of bizarre. The Rangers, one of if not the most physical teams in the NHL, the team with more fighting majors than any other team in the league, has been at the mercy of the “finesse” Ottawa Senators goons. Zenon Konopka and Chris Neil have definitely put their stamp on this series.
The Rangers have provided their fair share physicality in this series however it is the dubious officiating and ministrations of the NHL that have snatched the headlines.
A night after Shea Weber did his best WWE impersonation with Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass and received nothing more than a fine, Ranger rookie Carl Hagelin hit his boyhood idol Daniel Alfredsson high and, due to the extent of the injury, received a three game suspension. In the very next game, Brian Boyle (who was clearly the target in this game), was jumped from behind by Matt Carkner who pummels him while he lies prone on the ground.
The referee had a bird’s eye view and it was only when teammate Brandon Dubinsky jumped in to aid his defenseless teammate, that he intervened. Dubinsky received a game misconduct and was ejected from the game.
The myriad of missed calls aside, there was the dubious Chris Neil kick-in goal at the end of game 6 that so infuriated Lundqvist and a concussion causing hit from Neil on Boyle that received no punishment (a night after Raffi Torres received a 25 game suspension for a nearly identical hit).
Despite the inexplicable officiating, the on-ice surprises have been crucial. It’s been the Rangers power play unit (one of the more futile ones in the league) that’s been outplaying the Senators power play (tied for the eighth most dangerous unit in the NHL). More surprising still is that it the Rangers most prolific offensive threat in this series was Brian Boyle. Prior to being concussed in game 4, Boyle had netted 3 goals in the first three games of the series.
Even more unexpected is the goaltending play. Sure Henrik Lundqvist is brilliant, no revelation there; but that Craig Anderson can match him save for save over the course of a seven game series is unthinkable. To think, this series can see two sudden death overtimes and it’s the 30-year-old who’s spent most of his career as a backup that claimed victory in each, instead of the Vezina finalist.
Craig Anderson is the biggest reason that the Rangers and Sens are strapping on their helmets for an elimination game 7. The Rangers have made it a season of digging deep and gutting out wins. Whether it be the neophyte Chris Kreider or grizzled veterans like Marion Gaborik or Brad Richards who get the win in the first game 7 on Garden ice since the cup year of 1994, the story’s the same. Get it done boys.