A few things first:
As you saw last night, not only is it possible for lower seeds to steal Game 1 … it’s very common. Normally, the winner of Game 2 is the better barometer for who wins the series. But I’m not going to be your therapist tonight or tomorrow if that happens. I’ve learned my lesson to let you go nutso no matter what happens or how ridiculous the level of panic. Plus it’s good for traffic. I may not even read the comments if that happens.
There is no real home-ice advantage. See my story below.
And there is no such thing as momentum between games of from game to game. None. I know a bunch of youse disagreed with me last year (when I was proven correct on this). Trust me. Momentum swings wildly during playoff games all the time. Wildly enough to make you toss your lunch. Like no other momentum swings in sports or life. But once the game is over, whatever happened in Game 1 has zippo, zero, nada, zilch, squat to do with what happens in Game 2. And whatever happens in Game 2 has no bearing whatsoever on Game 3. None.
Please believe me on this.
Finally, what an absolute travesty the NHL has become. You can grab a guy by the back of the head and slam that head into the glass from behind, an act which cannot possibly be defined as anything but intentional, and get fined couch-cushion change. But don’t dare swear during a press conference.
Here’s my series preview from The Journal News and LoHud.com today:
By Rick Carpiniello
GREENBURGH — John Tortorella’s been right a lot more than he’s been wrong when has said, almost daily, that his team will be ready for the next game, the next challenge.
So the Rangers coach was asked, on the day before the first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against Ottawa begins at the Garden, if he needs to see something in his top-seeded team — in its eyes, in its practice, in the lockerroom — to reinforce that belief that it will be ready.
“I saw it,” Tortorella said. “I’m not telling you what it is, but I saw it. I’ve seen it the past few days.”
What we have all seen over 82 games is that the Rangers tend to play best in the biggest games, when the most is at stake.
What we have seen, too, is that the Rangers are a team that plays playoff hockey all year long — that grinding, banging style that makes it a long uncomfortable night for an opponent, that makes every foot of ice a battleground, that lives with the idea that how much you give up is as important as how much you get. That it will block your shots and take your hits, will drop the gloves and kill its penalties, and it will do this in front of a world-class goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, who can and has won games by himself.
This is going to be a tall task for the Ottawa Senators, who come into the series an underdog with some very legit skill and some under-appreciated ruggedness, a very good power play, and an unproven goalie in Craig Anderson.
“I think the style of game that we play, led by (captain Ryan Callahan) … we’re not changing,” Tortorella said. “We feel this is the right way to play, and right into playoffs. I think it suits very well for us because there’s not going to be a whole lot of adjustments from us here as far as what our attitude is and what style of play we’re going to have.”
The Rangers are rested, pretty healthy, and ready to go. They have home-ice advantage for the first time since 1996 … for what that’s worth, and it isn’t worth much.
Last year, home teams were 48-41, and the two teams that reached the finals were a combined 20-7. In other words, the other 14 teams were 28-34 at home. The year before, home teams were 46-43.
Most series start 1-1.
Last year, half of the eight first-round series went the full seven games.
This series sure won’t bring two conference rivals together. The Rangers last played the Ottawa Senators in a playoff series in 1930. Those Senators became defunct in 1934, and were re-estbalished in 1992.
But there’s feelings. The Senators won three of the four meetings this year, albeit one of those when the Rangers were out of the gate slowly after starting the season in Europe and Western Canada, and one which was stolen by Ottawa’s backup goalie. Brandon Prust, the league’s leading fighter, has fought the Senators’ (and ex-Islander) Zenon Konopka, it seems, a hundred times. Ottawa’s Chris Neil is a bigger, stronger Sean Avery.
By the way, each of the past three Stanley Cup champions — Pittsburgh (‘09), Chicago (‘10) and Boston (‘11) opened their season in Europe, and each played in the Winter Classic, but the year before.
These Rangers have been established by Bovada.lv as an 11-2 shot to win the Cup, same as Presidents’ Trophy winner Vancouver, behind only the favorite, Pittsburgh at 4-1.
But that’s a bit premature. Tortorella said that all players are judged, ultimately, on what they do in the playoffs.
These Rangers are ready to begin being judged tonight.