Consider it a surprise that the Rangers were a game away from elimination. Consider it not one when reflecting on the Vancouver-Los Angeles series that just ended with the Presidents’ Trophy winners bowing out. Either way, a loss tonight for the Rangers would have ended the season. The first period appeared to be more of the same. Little offensive pressure and getting outplayed in the neutral zone by the Senators. But the Rangers and Senators exchanged weak goaltender interference calls at the Rangers eventually generated momentum and got themselves a five on three. Derek Stepan scores the first goal on Craig Anderson in a long time and from there the Rangers played like the number one seed in the Eastern Conference is supposed to play. I’m sure George W. Bush is trying to hang the Mission Accomplished banner in the MSG rafters right now but the Rangers still aren’t in the clear yet. A game seven will decide the series. Let’s look at tonight’s post-game thoughts.
Referees: Everyone always complains about officiating but the officiating in this year’s playoffs have been especially awful. Tonight might have been the worst of them all. Incredibly soft calls on Mike Rupp that led to Ottawa’s first goal and an incredibly weak goaltender interference call on Chris Kreider. Then the referees gave the Rangers some soft ones. And they finished the game with the most ridiculous blunder of them all; gifting Chris Neil a goal in which he basically used his stick to shovel Lundqvist out of the crease and then kicked the puck in the net. Of course, some thanks goes to the video review team in Toronto who allowed it to stand. The referees were absolutely awful tonight and made horrible decisions that affected both teams negatively. I don’t know how Gary Bettman could possibly watch what happened tonight and not be embarrassed by what he saw.
Henrik Lundqvist- 1.82 Goals Against Average and a .942 Save Percentage in the six games this series. Can’t say that he isn’t doing everything possible to get the Rangers to the next round. With two players screening him he had no chance on the first goal and the second one never should have counted. After the Rangers took the lead, Lundqvist was a brick wall and gave Ottawa no chance of getting back into the game. Ottawa had 14 third period shots, so they certainly had their chances.
Brad Richards: It’s been this way the entire season; the Rangers’ offense is as good as Brad Richards is on a given night. After disappearing in games two through five, Richards put the offense and specifically the powerplay on his back tonight and willed the Rangers to tie and then lead the game. A great feed to Stepan on the first goal and a perfectly placed shot to give the Rangers their second of the night, Brad Richards brought his “A” game tonight and the Rangers will need him to bring it again for Game Seven.
Derek Stepan: Prior to tonight, Derek Stepan had zero points in 11 career playoff games. Stepan came away with three points and the first star tonight. He was in the right position and got a bit of a bounce on his first career playoff goal but his two assists showed what Derek Stepan can do when he’s on his game. Especially now with Brian Boyle out, the Rangers need some other players to step up and Derek Stepan did that tonight.
Chris Kreider: Hopefully the first of many goals Chris Kreider scores in a Rangers uniform. Kreider’s wrist shot is underrated and he put a good one past Anderson late in the second period to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead. Kreider seemed like a new player after the goal, as he was skating with confidence down the wings and behind the net and really factored into the offense. Tortorella rewarded him with some minutes late in the game where the Rangers needed to preserve the lead. Even if Boyle was ready to play for Game Seven I do not know how Tortorella could justify taking Kreider out of the lineup after tonight’s game.
Carl Hagelin: He didn’t have any points tonight but Hagelin’s presence was definitely felt. There is a tangible difference in the Rangers’ forechecking when Hagelin is in the lineup because his speed just can not be matched by anyone in the Ottawa lineup. He adds a different gear to the Rangers’ and now that Kreider is beginning the gain some confidence the Rangers could have a deadly duo in those two.
Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh were the team’s two best defensemen tonight in both ends of the rink, but that’s nothing new. They got the job done and we figure they will. The question is how many the Rangers can get past Craig Anderson. Tonight they managed to get three in the net, and if they can put in a similar offensive effort in Game Seven then I like our chances.