Well, I think we’ve witnessed the advantage of earning home ice in the playoffs, wouldn’t you say? After falling into an 0-2 hole against Washington in the first round, the Rangers dropped the first game of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup against the Bruins in overtime. After a lengthy feeling out period, the play opened up late in the second and into the third frame. The teams were relatively even until overtime, when the Bruins got chance after chance until Brad Marchand finally notched the game-winner at 15:40. Some positives and negatives from Game One:
- As we noted in the keys to the series, Boston was the league’s best faceoff team in the regular season for the second year in a row, but New York did a good job of keeping things relatively even in Game One. Derek Stepan had a miserable night on draws, going 5-14, but the rest of the Rangers were a combined 25-23. Not terrible, and the Rangers did get a few scoring opportunities off faceoff wins.
- Perhaps whatever issues were plaguing Rick Nash in the first round are now behind him? This was easily Nash’s best performance since Game One against Washington. The Rangers’ offensive leader set up Ryan McDonagh’s goal, drew a penalty on Zdeno Chara and generally skated much better and seemed to have a bit more mustard on his shot. We expected him to have a tough time with Chara in this series, but Nash did very well in Game One. Read more »
Rick Nash will have his hands full with Zdeno Chara
A slew of injuries to Boston blueliners have some convinced the Rangers will roll through their second round matchup, but we should know by now that nothing comes easy for New York. Still, the Blueshirts have a good shot at advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals if they follow these keys to victory.
Mitigate Boston’s advantage on faceoffs
It’s no coincidence that the team with the faceoff edge won five of seven games in New York’s first round matchup. Sure, there’s more to it than that, but winning faceoffs is one way to guarantee puck possession. For the second year in a row, Boston led the league in faceoff percentage by a wide margin, at 56.4%. First round hero Patrice Bergeron (62.1%) is far and away the best faceoff man in the league and will be a handful in this series. New York has been bipolar at the dots all year long, but the Rangers’ pivots will have to bring their “A” game to slow down Boston. Read more »
Is Derek Stepan underrated?
Welcome to the Musings. It’s a case of back to the future tonight as two rivals clash seemingly for the first time since time began. The boys have broken down the match up in depth and there’s not much you don’t know so I’m going to muse with you about non-Bruins/Rangers matters. Jump on in
Rant I: I’m beginning this week’s musings with a rant. Derek Stepan isn’t getting the due that he deserves. THN run a nice annual piece of alternative hockey awards and one category is ‘breakout player’. Stepan finished 8th, behind winner Nazeem Kadri, Voracek, Taylor Hall and Chris Kunitz among others. All the players had strong years but as they note, Kadri cooled considerably in April whereas Stepan got better as the games for the Rangers got more meaningful. Kunitz – while impressive – constantly had world class line mates while Voracek couldn’t help his team even get to the playoffs and Taylor Hall surely broke out a while ago.
Stepan would have been close to an 80 point season this year, was a league leader in game winners and plus minus all the while on a low scoring team without – for the large part – elite line mates and he’s twenty two. I think Stepan deserves more credit from league sources, but hey – maybe a Stanley Cup may help his rep. Rant over.
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Henrik Lundqvist has been named a finalist for the Vezina trophy again, for the fifth time in his career. Lundqvist won the award last year, and will look to be the first back to back winner since Martin Brodeur (06-07, 07-08). The other finalists are Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus) and Antii Niemi (SJ).
Chuck Myers/Getty Images
For reasons unbeknownst to me, some members of the national media seem to be under the impression that Henrik Lundqvist has been a failure as a playoff goaltender.
I could understand that sentiment a little prior to last season, but a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 should have quashed any conversation about Lundqvist’s postseason struggles.
Instead, an ugly stat had been making the rounds – Lundqvist has allowed three or more goals in 29 of his 58 playoff starts – and a suspect goal off the stick of Jason Chimera in Game One brought some of Lundqvist’s old critics out of the woodwork. Read more »
Greg Flume/Getty Images
After four days of anticipation, hand-wringing and analysis, the Rangers and Caps finally kicked off their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series last night. And it was ugly. There’s no two ways around it, the boys were sloppy, undisciplined and flat out not ready to play this game. They were dominated for the first ten minutes of the game, and fell victim to taking far too many penalties. However, there were quite a few positives to take away from this game as evidence that this team can still win this series. Let’s talk it out…
The game was lost in a span of :46 seconds
Sure, Ovechkin tied the game on the powerplay. It was a penalty that shouldn’t even have been called. That’s hockey. The tide of this game was turned however, on two mistakes. The first, was a mental mistake between the pairing of Girardi and McDonagh in letting Marcus Johansson slip in behind them for a breakaway. The second was made by Henrik Lundqvist on Jason Chimera’s back-breaking third goal.
Forty-six seconds apart. There’s the whole game. The Blueshirts weathered the storm of the Capitals’ attack in the first period, scored a goal they didn’t really deserve, and found their legs in the later stages of the game. If not for these two mental breakdowns, we could have been heading to OT with some momentum in the Rangers’ favor. I know it’s unfair, and we are spoiled by Hank’s general excellence, but I’d like to see him stop that move from Johansson. He was off-balance and let the puck squeak through him. When the King is on his game, that puck is not in the net. Read more »
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
The Rangers have gotten to know the Washington Capitals quite well in recent seasons, beyond the regular season. It goes without saying that there’s not likely to be many surprises facing either side entering this series, so what do the Rangers need to do to steal game one away and take away home ice advantage? Let’s look at the keys to victory for your New York Rangers.
This is the most obvious – and most crucial – aspect of the entire series, as it always is when taking on the Capitals. Without Marc Staal, who always does a great job defending Ovechkin, things will be different. Defending who is arguably the best player right now in the NHL will be done by committee.
The keys will be keeping Ovechkin to the outside, allowing Lundqvist to see the shot and not allow Ovechkin to enter the zone at speed as often as possible. Reports suggest Tortorella will split up McDonagh and Girardi to help negate Ovechkin. This will be key as the Caps look for matchup advantages throughout the series.
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Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America
One of the oldest adages of hockey is that to win games, you must stay out of the penalty box. Nothing revolutionary there, it makes sense that you don’t want to give your opponent too many chances to outnumber you on the ice.
It will certainly ring true in Round One, when the Rangers face Washington’s #1 ranked power play, which converted at a 26.8% rate this season. The Blueshirts must continue to play disciplined hockey, but that could be tricky; Washington’s offense isn’t just a handful on the power play, the Capitals rank fourth overall in offense and possess the league’s hottest scorer, the resurgent Alex Ovechkin.
You might have heard that Ovechkin was left for dead and then came roaring back with 27 goals in his final 32 games to end up leading the league. Unsurprisingly, Ovechkin did his most damage on the power play, where he netted 16 goals, a ridiculous six more than the league’s second-most productive player, Steven Stamkos. Read more »
Scott Levy/Getty Images
Sorry again about no goal breakdown, but the Rangers picked up two big points against the Devils today, winning by a score of 4-0. Hank bagged his second shutout of the season and Rick Nash enjoyed a dominating performance with two goals. There were contributions from all over the ice, including two point performances from Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Derek Stepan. The win gives the Blueshirts 56 points, 22 regulation wins and a temporary hold on the 6th seed in the East. I thought I’d use this post as an open thread for everyone to talk about the game, plus lay out the possible playoff matchup scenarios the Rangers could find themselves in.
6th Seed: Since the Islanders are already done, it comes down to the Ottawa Senators to change the seeding. The Sens have two remaining games and 54 points. For the Rangers to stay in 6th place, the Sens would need to lose at least one game in regulation or lose both in OT/shootout. In that case, The Sens would either finish with less or the same amount of points as the Rangers, and the Rangers would hold the tiebreaker on regulation victories. Read more »
The Rangers played one of their most complete games of the season as they eliminated the Devils from postseason contention, winning 4-1. The Rangers were the better team throughout led once again by Callahan and Stepan offensively with Henrik Lundqvist again in strong form in net. The Rangers are peaking at the right time. You have to enjoy the Devils mocks from the crowd toward the end. That feels good. So does seeing their head coach get ejected. This was a satisfying win for the Rangers. On to the goal breakdown.
Rangers 1-0; Ryan Callahan
The Rangers struck early; after getting in deep and generating pressure along the boards the puck caroms off the boards to Callahan who, stationed to the right of the Devils goal caught Brodeur off guard to bank it off his right skate in to the net. The goal was basically a result of immediate puck pressure and a strange bounce that Callahan was able to take advantage of.
Rangers 2-0; Derek Stepan
Traffic + puck possession = goals. The Rangers cycled the puck down low effectively then moved the puck to the blueline where it eventually came to Ryan McDonagh. As McDonagh wound up for a shot, two Rangers (Clowe and Stepan) went toward the net and created a heap of traffic in front of Brodeur. McDonagh’s shot from the right point appears to take a deflection in front from Stepan as Brodeur could see very little as the puck found its way in.
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