There have been a lot of concerns about the Rangers entering the playoffs and specifically how their lack of scoring would hold them back when compared to a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins are currently down 3-0 in their series despite all their goal scoring. The Rangers scrapped together one measly goal tonight and came away with the win. And that’s all that really matters when you have a 12 forwards and six defensemen committed to defense and one goaltender committed to being unbreakable.
One of the best attributes of this Rangers squad is that they don’t let bad breaks or poor performances of the past affect their attitude the next day. And the next game. After a bad result in Game Two, the Rangers came out tonight very sound defensively and were a few great saves from Craig Anderson away from winning by multiple goals. With the win, the Rangers diminish any momentum the Senators might have thought they had generated and get back the home ice advantage. Let’s look at post-game notes.
Henrik Lundqvist: Played probably his best playoff game in since 2009. The few times Ottawa penetrated the Rangers Lundqvist was a brick wall. No miscues. No lucky breaks. No bad rebounds. Erik Karlsson was visibly frustrated after Lundqvist robbed him with minutes to go and Henke got a few more huge saves in the final minute to seal the victory. Thirty nine saves in total, Henrik walks away with his fourth career playoff shutout and the first star.
Boyle sure learned his lesson from Carkner. So worried he scored an important goal.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) April 17, 2012
His third goal in as many games so far this series. Five shots, two blocked shots, and three hits. A perfect homerun pass to Ryan Callahan to give him a breakaway. What more can we ask for from our third line center? Boyle is stepping up in a big way for the Rangers.
The Entire Defense: It’s impossible to single anyone out. Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh made it impossible for Spezza and Michalek to enter the offensive zone with the puck, much less generate many offensive chances. They blocked a combined eight shots and led the team with 3:05 in shorthanded time. Anton Stralman was fantastic in his own right in the defensive zone tonight. Boyle’s goal was only allowed to happen because of Stralman blocking multiple shots and clearing a puck from the crease before any Ottawa sticks could get on it. Stu Bickel made the best defensive play of his career when he positioned himself in front of a rebound and blocking a shot that otherwise likely would have went into an open net. Del Zotto and Staal contributed 20+ minutes and blocked shots, refrained from making any glaring mistakes, and I thought did a very good job of getting the puck deep into Ottawa’s end. Just a great effort from all six defensemen tonight.
Chris Kreider: He did not light the world on fire tonight, but anyone who was expecting as much is delusional. I thought Kreider looked a bit passive in the first period but started to gain more and more confidence as the game went on. His speed was obvious and his strength was shown on the multiple failed attempts by Ottawa defensemen to knock him down. I thought he could have been a bit more authoritative on the forecheck but it was a pretty decent first NHL game for the 21 year old.
The Rangers now have the 2-1 series lead and I can’t imagine Ottawa can take much away from a game like this. Still a lot of work to do to win this first round series but I’m content with where the Rangers are at right now.