Well fellow Rangers fans, we couldn't have scripted this series any better… As I mentioned in my preview, I really believed this series would boil down to the goaltending mis-match between “King” Henrik Lundqvist and Jose “Propecia-Boy” Theodore. Now, while Theo might have a fuller head of hair, the Rangers definitely have the better goaltender, and that's what counts! Actually, I can't say for sure that Lundqvist is thinning up top, but I know he's never publicly admitted to using Propecia either, so let's just assume for now…
Anyway, here's what I've seen so far in this series, that pits my favourite team against my wife's favourite team… (I'll be celibate at least until the end of the series, if not the playoffs… Boooo!)
1 – I've noticed that Alex Ovechkin has his heart on his sleeve, and that he is trying to do things by himself. This isn't particularly condusive, as clearly the Rangers know they need to pay special attention to Washington's wunderkind. 13 shots in game 1, with some 25 attempted shots. Not bad, but if they don't go in, you have to think of them as potential wasted opportunities. His 6 shots on goal in the second game seem a little more proportional, but really he just didn't have many chances to pull the trigger. Oddly, he had two assists in the first match, and no points in the 1-0 shutout in game 2.
2 – Tortorella has demanded self-sacrifice from his team, and they've bought into it. It seems like the Rangers, and especially their veterans, are willing to pay the price at both ends of the rink, or even in the neutral zone. This means making hits, following the play, and blocking shots. We often hear about “winning the little battles” from expert analysts, and the Rangers are definitely getting the job done. I've never seen Michael Rozsival block a shot before, but he's been doing it with impugnity in the first two games…
3 – Bruce Boudreau seems lost. Yes, he's still relatively new to coaching at the NHL level, especially in a playoff environment, but “double B” seems unable to switch up his lines to get Ovechkin more space. Maybe it's because Ovechkin seems to dictate the length of his own shifts, or maybe it's because New York is playing so tight that there's really no favourable matchup. Again, individual skill won't get Washington through this series, simply because of their netminding deficiencies…
4 – Taking a hit to make the play. How important and clutch is that statement? Well, enough so that it is frequently over-used… However, the Rangers are doing it, from their best players to Wade Redden (yes, I'm actually giving him credit for a decent performance thus far)… It's hard to imagine a hockey game with no hits, and they seem to come at the most crucial times, like when the puck is dumped into a corner and the chase begins. Thus far, the Rangers have been able to suck up the pain and get the puck moving in the right direction. However, I suspect that if Washington continues to charge hard for those loose pucks, this is an area they could capitalize on, if (and only if) they continue a physical assault on the retrieving Rangers player. Washington thrives on offensive-zone turnovers, and we're starting to see a bit more of those as the second game reached it's completion.
5 – The King is definitely holding court to this stage. Henrik Lundqvist has seen far more action than either Jose Theodore, or surprise game 2 starter, Simeon Varlamov. However, in his typical stoic fashion, he's been rock-steady between the pipes. Especially in the playoffs, teams can't afford even a single game letdown, and while it's only a pair of games, Henke shows no chinks in his armour. Can't say the same thing at the other end of the rink, where even though Varlamov played a near flawless game, there appeared to be vulnerabilities. If you want to beat Varlamov, the best way to do it is with cross-crease passing. He doesn't possess the strongest lateral move. He's a medium build guy who simply doesn't adjust position all that quickly.
In closing, I believe that with a 2 game advantage staked to them, the Rangers will come out firing on all cylinders on home ice for game 3. With the MSG crowd lifting their morale, it wouldn't be inconceivable to see this series move to a 3-0 Rangers lead. However, I'll stick by my prediction that Washington's individual talents (Semin, Green and of course, Ovechkin) will rally to win at least one game on Broadway. They should then be able to extend the series to a 6th game by winning one in front of their own partisans…
Until next time,
About the Author
Written by Dan Rakusan
A huge Rangers (NHL), Falcons (NFL), PGA Tour and soccer fan, I have been writing semi-professionally for about 7 years now. I try to impart information with some degree of humour, and always have an opinion. PSB is another feather in my cap, and am really proud of the team assembled here, and look forward to the long-term journey PSB is embarking on in terms of establishing itself as the best sports blogging collective on the net! Look for articles such as 4-Play, Rangers blogs and PGA Tour updates, along with my NFL handicapping service!