A win against Washington on the final day of the regular season, and the New York Rangers
would have wound up facing the Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Instead, after all the Eastern Conference playoff dust had settled, they found themselves with the Ottawa Senators
as their draw -- which means, in part, having to defend against this season's breakout defenseman and possible Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson
Karlsson led all blueliners in scoring with 78 points and tied Shea Weber
for the lead with 19 goals. The 21-year-old Swedish standout didn't score any of those goals against the Rangers, but he picked up five assists as the Senators won three of four in the regular-season series.
Thirty-plus goal scorers Jason Spezza
and Milan Michalek
will be primary focuses of the Rangers' defensive efforts in this series, but center Brad Richards
said they can't lose track of where Karlsson is on the ice.
"He's a big part of their offense, obviously, and it'll be a big focus for us to try to limit his time and space," Richards said during a Monday conference call with the media. "Hopefully we can keep him away from puck as much as we can. He's kind of a rover, he'll jump up in the play, and he's such a great skater he gets back just as quick, so he can take more chances than other d-men can.
"You have to keep your head on a swivel when he has the puck, try to get it out of his hands as quick as we can so he can't be a big part of the offense … start in their end and keep an eye on him down there, don't let him beat you and create those odd-man rushes."
Ottawa won both of its games during the regular season at Madison Square Garden, where the series will get started with Game 1 on Thursday.
"They're a very talented team … we plan on making it difficult on them when we start Thursday," Richards said. "If you give time and space they can score goals. That's probably why they [had success against us]."