Entering the final weekend of the 2013-14 season, the New York Rangers can take a second to catch their breath after a tough sprint to the finish line. With 95 points, the Rangers have locked up the second seed in the Metropolitan division. They can do no better or worse than where they currently sit and will host whoever grabs the third seed in met. But if you were New York, who would you rather play?
The Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets are fighting for that third seed and the right to play New York. The other will have to settle for a wildcard spot and also risk the possibility of a first round matchup with the Boston Bruins. Other than simply choosing a team, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons to each scenario.
Why the Rangers want to play Columbus:
Defensively the Rangers are a better team. Jack Johnson has had a breakout year by establishing himself as one of the leaders of the Blue Jackets and James Wisniewski has 50 points, but the Rangers get the edge because of their depth.
Ryan McDonagh has been the best Ranger for most of the season and Dan Girardi is always solid. Marc Staal has returned to his old form while Anton Stralman and Kevin Klein have quietly played very strong. The acquisition of Klein has proven to be a success from a defensive standpoint. Columbus also doesn’t get enough scoring from their defense. Only seven of Wisnieski’s 50 points are goals and the team has 28 goals from defensemen this season. McDonagh has 14 goals himself.
Why the Rangers don’t want to play Columbus:
Three letters. “B-o-b.” Sergei Bobrovsky has been great in goal this season since he got healthy and when he’s on his game the Blue Jackets can beat anybody. The bad news for other teams is that he has been on his game of late. Bobrovsky has given up one goal or less in four of his last seven games and Columbus has won five of those games. The Blue Jackets will go as far as the reigning Venzina Trophy winner will take them.
Why the Rangers want to play Philly:
Steve Mason is the biggest reason New York would want a first round date with their bitter rivals. Mason has played solid down the stretch and the Flyers have needed him to make it this far, but the playoffs could be a different story.
Mason only has four career playoff games under his belt—all losses. That was five years ago as a member of Columbus when the Blue Jackets were swept. Mason posted a 4.27 goals-against average. Of course that was then, but it will be interesting to see how Mason handles the pressure of the playoffs this time around. Other than that, the Flyers are entering the postseason as a dangerous team that many would not want to face.
Why the Rangers don’t want to play Philly:
Did I mention that Philly is a dangerous team? The answer to why lies obviously within their captain Claude Giroux. He’s been nothing less than spectacular this season, especially considering his slow start. He didn’t score his first goal until his 16th game. It’s no coincidence that the team as a whole slumped out of the gate. Giroux is this team’s best player and he needs to play like it for the Flyers to maximize their potential. Despite the slow start, Giroux is second only to Sidney Crosby in points in the Eastern Conference.
All three teams are playing well heading into the postseason, but New York has a more favorable matchup against the Blue Jackets. The Flyers are deeper than Columbus and get production from all of their lines much like the Rangers. New York’s depth is what helped the team start scoring goals at a higher rate and they could do some damage against Columbus’ lower lines. Also, the Blue Jackets rely on scoring from a select few and if they don’t score, the team could be in trouble. One thing is certain — the series will be packed with intensity.