News Blog: Playoff bound on Broadway

Adam Proteau will return April 2. In his absence, the The Hockey will feature several guest bloggers. Up today is THN copy editor Ryan Dixon:

• So Sean Avery is just some jerk that flaps his gums and flops on the ice?

Since landing in New York, Avery has recorded 15 points in 23 games. The Rangers are 14-4-4 with the feisty forward in their lineup and have won their last five games.

Yesterday, in a crucial defeat of the Islanders, Avery killed penalties and even saw some time on the power play. While he’s certainly still not above the odd bonehead penalty, there’s no denying he has added some swagger to the Rangers lineup.

As good as Avery has been, it’s the return of The King that has truly sparked the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist has been stellar in New York’s net, allowing just three goals over the course of the team’s five-game victory steak.

And when an extra point is on the line, the Swedish stopper has been terrific. Lundqvist has an 8-3 shootout record, allowing just eight goals on 47 attempts this season for a shootout save percentage of .830 (fourth best among goalies who’ve faced 10 or more shots). The league average is .677.

Last year the Rangers cruised through three-quarters of the season before falling flat down the stretch and bowing out in four straight games to the Devils. Anybody else starting to get the feeling there might be a different type of ending on Broadway this spring?

• Boy, some big prize they’re handing out for winning top seed in the Western Conference this year. The victorious team gets to face a Calgary team that’s already revved up from fending off Colorado’s late playoff push.

The Flames are nearly unbeatable at home and if Miikka Kiprusoff regains the form he has shown in the past, their road fortunes will improve in a hurry.

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• A question for all those who support one of the six Eastern Conference teams vying for the last three spots: If given the opportunity, wouldn’t you swap your team’s fate for Philadelphia’s?

The Flyers, suffering from no delusions of a Hollywood-like turnaround, parlayed their best players into solid young assets and, barring a cruel lottery twist, will have the first overall pick tucked in their back pocket when they arrive in Columbus for the draft this June.

Meanwhile, the three teams that don’t make the playoffs – between the Rangers, Lightning, Hurricanes, Islanders, Leafs or Habs – will play no more playoff games than Philly and have only a middle-of-the-road first-rounder to show for it. They’ll also be stuck paying the guys who weren’t good enough to get them in the playoffs this year, next season, because they refused to flip assets for future rewards.

Fans are always blinded by loyalty when it comes to predicting their team’s future, but can anyone objectively say they expect any of those six teams to play beyond one round of hockey. Maybe the Rangers? Perhaps the team that draws Atlanta in Round 1?

So I ask you, fans, if your team falls in the average-to-bad range, wouldn’t you rather see them at the bottom of the standings until it returns a true contender when the picks and prospects work out?

very nice blog. i do miss mr. proteau’s…sence of humor, but this is a very down to earth blog with the facts. nice job.
– Brian

Um, Ryan, I just checked the Western Conference standings and only three teams have clinched spots. I’ll concede the top seven are in but Calgary sure doesn’t own that eighth seed. Go Avs!
– Mickey