Every playoff series generally has two players that end up playing massive roles in their team's success or failure. That's no different for the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators. For the Rangers, the choice is simple, Henrik Lundqvist.
For the Senators, it's a smiliar tune. Peter Raaymakers of Silver Seven Sens also believes the Senators goalie, Craig Anderson, is the key player for Ottawa.
All season long, the Senators have had problems on the defensive side of the puck--they allowed more shots per regular-season game than any other playoff team this season. They haven't had problems scoring goals, but as long as Anderson can play as well as he's capable of doing, the team will be better off for it.
In the end, the choice isn't a surprise at all. Typically, teams who make deep runs in the playoffs have a goaltender who is tearing it up between the pipes. So how much trouble will Anderson be for the Rangers this year?
Join me after the jump to find out.
The Senators have had goalie issues all season. Ottawa has had four goalies play this season, with three of them playing 10 games or more. Anderson has played in 63 games this year, posting a 2.84 GAA and a .914 SV%. While his goals against is eye-popping, his save percentage indicated that it's simply a free-for-all in terms of other teams shooting the puck.
This is why Anderson is a key player for the Senators (well, that, and he's a goalie). It's also why the Rangers need to simply shoot the puck when they have their chances. Anderson has made the Rangers look bad before, and he can do it again easily. Then again, the Rangers can also easily light him up. It's the playoffs, anything can happen.
As for New York's key player, do you really need to ask? Henrik Lundqvist has been the Rangers' key player since he wrestled that starting role away from Kevin Weeks after the lockout.
His numbers this season have been remarkable. You can choose any positive adjctive and it wouldn't be accurate in terms of how well Lundqvist has played this year. He finished the season with a career-high 39 wins, 1.97 GAA and .930 SV%. He also had eight shutouts.
Lundqvist has helped the Rangers steal games all season. That's both a good and a bad thing. Good, because Lundqvist has been good enough to shut the door on opposing teams and allowing slim leads to hold up and turn into victories. Bad, because the Rangers sometimes left Lundqvist out to dry, couldn't muster up more than a few goals and needed some fantastic saves to win games.
Yes, it's a goaltender's job to do those things. And no, I won't apolozie in the playoffs if Lundqvist blows the door off everyone and shuts other teams down. But he shouldn't have to do it. At least not on a nightly basis. But if it has to be done, he's good enough to do it.