What’s great about the NHL playoffs is how many subplots develop within the big picture. The format is the same every year, but each playoffs exposes new great stories.
Chris Kreider is the latest up and coming story. New York is not new to watching good athletes, but very few players are able to capture the attention of the entire city and become a phenomenon by themselves. Derek Jeter is that. Mark Messier and Henrik Lundqvist are that. For a while Jeremy Lin absolutely was that. He’s only played six games, but Chris Kreider got a taste of what that can be like. He sticks out like a sore thumb every time he steps on the ice and he came up clutch tonight with his second NHL goal, which also was the game winner. And while of course the most important thing is that the Rangers got the win in the first game of this series, it’s hard to ignore the euphoria and electricity that Chris Kreider brings to the arena every time he steps onto the ice. He is the story within the big picture that everyone should be mesmerized by.
It seems that Brendan Shanahan had the Rangers’ best interests in mind from the very beginning, because if Carl Hagelin doesn’t get suspended then Chris Kreider likely doesn’t get the opportunity to play. And look at him now. Look at the team now. Everything worked out for the best.
But yes, it is a team game, and it took a full team effort to get the win. So let’s look at some post-game thoughts.
John Tortorella- With every win comes fewer and fewer Tortorella detractors. He got the team ready for this game despite coming off an emotional and exhausting Game Seven against Ottawa only two days ago. He got the right players on the ice against the Ovechkin line the entire game and held Ovie and Backstrom to two shots total. He didn’t allow the team to come out flat in the third period after letting Washington tie the game with seconds to go in the second period. Coaching can only go so far if you don’t have the right personnel, but having John Tortorella absolutely does give us an edge over other teams with less experienced, perhaps even less intelligent, coaches.
Ruslan Fedotenko- The poor guy gets written off by everyone all the time and yet he’s showing us exactly why he’s still here and in the lineup. He was the team’s best defensive forward today and was specifically important on the 5 on 3 penalty kill. He worked hard on the forecheck and his work along the boards freed the puck for Artem Anisimov, who put in the first goal of the game. An assist, three blocked shots, and two takeaways. Fedotenko is an important role player and I’m happy to have him in the lineup. He earned the third star for his play in this game.
Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi- Absolutely shut down Washington’s top line. Tortorella made the decision to have those two on Ovechkin instead of Marc Staal and it paid off. The only real chances Ovechkin got were on the powerplay, because five on five he was basically irrelevant. That alone would make it a successful game for these two, but they also did a good job in the offensive zone as well, getting pucks towards the net. And if that wasn’t possible, then they made sure to get the puck deep so that the Rangers could continue to forecheck and wear out the Capitals. If these two can play like that the rest of this series then the Capitals are in trouble.
Alexander Semin- Semin gained a lot of respect and praise for his play in the first round against the Bruins. He seemed to be buying into Dale Hunter’s system and was battling and blocking shots and doing the little things. Today, Semin reverted back to his old ways. Two absolutely terrible tripping penalties for him. Last year the Rangers outworked the Capitals but simply didn’t have the skill to beat them. The Capitals aren’t going to get away with that this season. They’ll need players like Semin to start playing a complete game and not making stupid decisions like he did today.
So that’s that. Another game one victory for the Rangers, and I think we can be happy with the overall effort from the team. Head over to Capitals Outsider for their recap of the game. The Rangers will take the ice on Monday and hopefully take a commanding series lead.