While the cheering levels were debated the last two weeks, there’s no doubt who had more talent in the Capitals’ 4-1 quarterfinal series win over the eighth-seeded Rangers.
Alex Ovechkin recorded six points (three goals, three assists), Alex Semin totaled four points (three goals and an assist) and despite accounting for just one assist, Nicklas Backstrom seemingly had the puck on his stick every time he took to the ice.
Unlike last spring, when the Rangers missed the playoffs by one point and appeared to be consigned to an elongated journey of self-realization, John Tortorella believes the bar as to what the team must be in order to be successful was set this past year.
The Rangers led the NHL with 2,333 hits and their 1,301 blocked shots ranked fourth. As a result to their commitment to defensive play, the Rangers’ 2.38 goals against average was fifth best in the league.
“We’re happy with a lot of things but there are a lot of things we have to work on,” Brandon Prust said. “That’s part of (being a pro). Take those experiences and just try to keep getting better.”
But what the 4-1 series loss to Washington proved was that the Rangers talent level is not conducive to playoff success, especially against teams with superior personnel. Alex Ovechkin recorded six points (three goals, three assists), Alex Semin totaled four points (three goals and an assist), and despite totaling just one assist, Nicklas Backstrom seemingly had the puck on his stick every time he took to the ice during the five games.
Tortorella routinely expressed his concern about the Rangers talent level during the final weeks of the regular season and during the series against Washington. He reiterated that belief yesterday.
“We have to add skill within our lineup,” Tortorella said when asked if the high-end talent was in the system or had to come in via trade or free agency. He declined to comment when asked about a New York Post report that stated he signed a three-year extension. “We need to look at all avenues. We’re building the right foundation. We had some really good growth and some surprises. When you get into the real stuff of the playoffs and play a skillful team like Washington, you can see where we need some help in that area. We’ll have to look at all areas. ”
The Rangers have $16.787 million in cap room but will provide raises for core components Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Mike Sauer. Still, it is expected that the organization will be in the Brad Richards bidding this summer. The Dallas UFA center, who was key for Tortorella’s Cup-winning Lightning team in 2004, totaled 28 goals and 49 assists for 77 points in 72 games this season.
Richards would fill three glaring holes: A legitimate No.1 center, he could play alongside Marian Gaborik. Also, he could provide a stabilizing presence for a power play that connected on a 16.9 percent rate during the regular season but was a ghastly 1-for-20 against the Capitals.
“(GM Glen Sather) will obviously have to decide that,” Gaborik said when asked if he thought the organization needed to add more skill. “More skill will help.”
Three offseason questions:
1: Is the intangible quality of leadership and the tangible abilities to win faceoffs, kill penalties and block shots worth $7.05 million? That is what the franchise’s decision makers will determine when the name of Chris Drury is brought up in organizational meetings. Judging by what was — and what wasn’t — said, it appears that Drury does not have a future with the Rangers.
2: Would the Rangers buy out Drury? He would be a cap hit of $3.71 million in 2011-12 and $1.6 million the following year. But by buying him out, it would allow Drury to shop himself on the free agent market. He has the respect of everyone within the organization so he will not receive the same treatment as Wade Redden, who was banished to AHL Connecticut.
3: Would the Rangers buy out Redden? Uh, no. The defenseman would be a cap hit of $1.833 million in 2011-12, $3.33 million the following two years, and $1.833 million in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. To buy him out in a cap world would be suicidal. They will keep Redden in the American League, unless he opts to play in Europe, as he suggested earlier in the season.