Here is how I see the match up.
Hard to give an edge to one group of forwards over the other because they play such different styles. The Rangers are the grind it out type of team, great off the cycle and creating their chances from below the goaline. Meanwhile the Sens are a little more run and gun and rely on a strong counter attack game for their offence. Both teams have legitimate first line centres in Richards and Spezza, both teams have first line snipers in Gaborik and Michalek and both teams have tough bottom six guys like Dubinsky and Neil that can contribute. Both teams like to play a physical brand of hockey so there's no real seperation there. But the Senators have a Daniel Alfredsson, the Rangers do not. We have seen Alfie elevate his game at this time of year before and I don't expect this year to be any different.
EDGE- The Ottawa Senators
Another tough one to call because the two defence cores are just so different. Led by Erik Karlsson, the Sens defence puts up points and lots of them. Meanwhile the Rangers get far less scoring from their back end but they love to make you pay a physical price and are capable of blocking a ton of shots. The pair of Girardi and McDonagh is going to make life extremely difficult for Spezza, particularly at MSG where the Rangers have last change. I'll give the Rangers a slight edge here because their defence appears to be a little more built for playoff style hockey. With that said, if the Sens get continued production from the blueline, it could be the difference in this series.
EDGE- The New York Rangers
Let's face it, Henrik Lundqvist is probably the best goalie in the NHL. Coming off a season that is sure to net him the Vezina and even some Hart Trophy talk, he is the reason the Rangers are the top seed in the East. At the other end, you have Craig Anderson who has looked strong since returning from a hand injury. If there is a saving grace for the Sens, it's the fact that Lundqvist hasn't exactly been lights out during the playoffs in his career. He has a 15-20-0 record and a fairly unimpressive .909 save percentage. Lundqvist is not the type to get rattled easily but traffic in front of him is going to be crucial. If he can see it, he's going to stop it. If Andy can match King Henrik in this series, the Sens should be able to hang with the Rangers.
EDGE- The New York Rangers
This is where Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza will have to leave their mark on this series. Goals are harder to come by at playoff time so you have to make sure you take advantage on the power play. The Sens sport the league's 11th best power play while the Rangers are ranked 23rd. Meanwhile the Rangers have the 5th best PK in the league while the Sens are ranked 20th. Pretty much a wash here but it will essentially come down to which team's stars take advantage of their opportunities with the man advantage.
While the Rangers had the edge in two of the four categories, there are a couple key elements that I feel tip this series in the Sens favour. The first is experience. Despite icing a fairly young team, the Sens have a ton of playoff experience in their line up and have the added bonus of a group that is just one season removed from a Calder Cup run in Binghamton. Experience matters this time of year.
The second factor is pressure. The Rangers are the top seed in the East and will be expected to make short work of the Sens. If Ottawa can find a way to steal one of the first two at MSG, a building they have played so well in historically, the could plant that seed of doubt in the Rangers.
PREDICTION- OTTAWA SENATORS IN 6 GAMES
Thursday, April 12, 2012 7 pm Ottawa at NY Rangers
Saturday, April 14, 2012 7 pm Ottawa at NY Rangers
Monday, April 16, 2012 7:30 pm NY Rangers at Ottawa
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 7:30 pm NY Rangers at Ottawa
Saturday, April 21, 2012 7 pm Ottawa at NY Rangers
Monday, April 23, 2012 TBD NY Rangers at Ottawa
Thursday, April 26, 2012 TBD Ottawa at NY Rangers