After a physical first-round victory against the Canadiens, the Rangers return to the ice Thursday against the Senators. With storylines aplenty, the Blueshirts should expect another tight, hotly-contested series as they seek their third Eastern Conference Finals trip in four years.
Read on for three keys to the second-round playoff series.
To put it plainly, the Rangers’ power play was miserable against Montreal. The Blueshirts failed to score with an advantage until Game 6, going 1-for-15 in the series. This coming from a team that ranked 10th on power plays during the regular season, capitalizing on 20.3% of its opportunities.
Ottawa wasn’t much better, going 3-for-18 in their first five games against the Bruins. Like the Rangers, they were more effective in Game 6, scoring twice with the advantage.
Minding the netminders
Henrik Lundqvist is peaking at an opportune time. After a less-than-perfect regular season, the 35-year-old looked like a new man against the Habs, posting a .947 save percentage. He earned a shutout in Game 1 and held Montreal to two goals or less in Games 4-6.
Across the ice is Craig Anderson, who ranked third in save percentage during the regular season (.926). He was solid against Boston but surrendered three goals in Games 2, 3 and 5. But Anderson shined in Game 4, saving 22 shots en route to a shutout.
Ottawa’s Achilles heel
It usually isn’t wise to show your cards, but the Senators’ Erik Karlsson must not be too concerned. The 26-year-old defenseman revealed this week that he’s been playing with hairline fractures in his left heel since the end of March.
Despite the injury, Karlsson led Ottawa to its first playoff series victory in four years and insists his foot is all but healed. He averaged 30:24 on the ice and racked up six assists against Boston.
Expect the Rangers to place additional pressure on him in an effort to exploit whatever is left of the injury. But Karlsson played exceptionally in the first round, so only time will tell if more wear and tear will slow him down.