Deja vu? The New York Rangers pushed their post-season to 7 games and clinched it with a 2-1 win at home. It’s a common story line for the Rangers, who have kept most of their games to low-scoring, close affairs and who have won every game 7 series with a 2-1 score under outspoken coach Torterella. New York kept to its systems, made good use of their line match ups and managed to play a clean, tight game.
Washington’s confidence was shaken by Richards’ goal one and half minutes into the first period and didn’t recover in that period at all. They were playing on their heels after that moment and couldn’t capitalize off a power play opportunity. The Caps defensemen held onto the puck too long despite the best efforts of their forwards to rush the net for chances. They faked shots, passed too often to each other back and forth and spoiled their chances of making their way back into this game. This gave Lundqvist plenty of time to get comfortable, to focus and take it from there. One goal is pretty much all he needs in order to steal a game or a series for that matter.
It was a real battle of the goaltenders and a much better one than anyone could have anticipated. While Holtby has been good for the Caps this season, nobody could have expected him to go toe to toe with one of the league’s best and to do so with poise. Holtby was sensational in his playoff debut and can’t be faulted for this loss. He made saves that he shouldn’t have had to make, like a late miscommunication with his own defensemen on an inept power play and a late back in to the net after more wayward play by his own team in the dying minutes of the game.
Washington battled hard, but couldn’t buy a goal in the first or second period, despite charging the zone several times. Ovechkin tried to do it on his own, as he has in past seasons, with the same results. Ovie free-styling with more ice time has never won the Caps playoff games. Brooks Laich’s warrior scars include a blocked shot to the ankle and a deflected shot off the ear and he came back both times. Semin and Backstrom came and went and Mike Green gets to be the proud recipient of the Jason Spezza award for not shooting the puck.
New York has made its way to the top of the Eastern Conference heap by being stingy. They block shots, take away zones, play tight and defend first. Even their run support is sparse, which has come back to haunt them a few times in the post-season. They are guilty of taking silly minors and once in awhile, they have attention lapses when they turn the puck over and leave the zone wide open for a breakaway.
New Jersey has worked hard to go from a defense first team to a more dynamic scoring team. Their game is faster and their firepower has been impressive, leading to a much more enjoyable fan experience than one could reasonably expect from the Devils in the past. The beauty of this match up for the Eastern Conference Final is that there’s a great rivalry here. The hate will be on for both sides of the Hudson River and it’s expected that they will be loud, tough, bone-cracking games. If Brodeur plays to his potential, the goaltending match up between him and Lundqvist will be a dream for fans and nightmare for forwards.
The Rangers will have one day to rest and recover from this second long series before they meet the Devils on Monday night. The well-rested Devils should come jumping out of the gate; and maybe deliver the Rangers a few surprises.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.