The New York Rangers dropped a close 1-0 road decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins in what could have been a preview of the first round of the playoffs. If these two teams meet in the first round, it promises to be a doozy.
While the loss exposed the Rangers’ flaws, they weren’t anything we haven’t seen before. They couldn’t score an even strength goal, relying on a power play that failed them. It’s nothing new, they live and die with their special teams. In this game, they ran into Tristan Jarry who was excellent especially in the first period when the Rangers had their best scoring chances.
Igor Shesterkin proved why he is the best goalie in the NHL. At the same time, they played shutdown defense allowing only one goal for the third straight game. Opponents have scored 10 goals in the last seven games, only seven at even strength. Considering the youth of the Rangers’ defense, it’s been a pretty amazing run.
There were numerous scrums as the two teams came together repeatedly and the game had a physical intensity that had a playoff feel.
Gerard Gallant admitted that it felt like a playoff game. “For sure, it definitely did. The longer the game went 0-0 it felt like a playoff battle.” He loved the Rangers’ start. “I was really excited with the first period. I think we had great jump. We came in here and had a great first. We still played well the second and third , but I thought the first was really good.”
Barclay Goodrow said much the same, “It’s the closest to playoff-like physicality in a game we’ve had…it’s gonna be huge games coming down the stretch.”
If this was indeed a playoff preview, the Rangers are ready. Defense wins playoff games and the Rangers’ defense, anchored by Shesterkin, is one of the best in the NHL. They are allowing only 2.44 goals per game, third fewest in the league.
Gallant said it best. “It was a good hockey game. Two good teams going at it…One goal decided it. Both teams played hard and both teams wanted to win.”