The Rangers probably played one of their weaker games this playoffs for the bulk of this game. They still won, and they still deserved to win. Why? Because they were willing to pay the price. To sacrifice their bodies to cover their mistakes. To do whatever it took to keep the puck out. No matter the cost, they were going to give it everything to win the game. Mentally, they were all over the place. Poor reads, poor decision making, poor passes, but the effort level was there.
I don’t think it was a result of the Devils play either. Their forecheck is nothing the Rangers are unfamiliar with, nor is it something that should scare the hell out of them. It is what it is. The big difference tonight was the Rangers mentally. They weren’t sharp. But, like I said before, they were willing to pay the price to win games.
So, despite playing a so-so game, the Rangers came out with a 3-0 win, that probably should have been 4-0 if not for a miraculous save by Uncle Daddy on Marc Staal. Why? Because the Rangers are not the Flyers, and the Devils are not that Capitals. I said it before this series started. This is a good matchup for the Rangers compared to those 2 teams. The Devils system is going to give the Rangers some chances to put some goals in. Their holes are highly exploitable. Start with the goaltending. Sure, Brodeur made 1 incredible save. He also made an excellent stop on MDZ earlier in the game when he came way out. But he also misplayed 2 pucks due to the Rangers pressure, and both of the goals he gave up were fairly soft. Girardis shot wasn’t exactly a bomb. I’m not sure if he was screened on the shot, he didn’t seem to act like he was, he just wasn’t in the position to make the stop if the shot was to the far post, which it was. The Kreider goal…a wrister from above the top of the circles? You have to stop that shot. Kreider has a wicked had shot with a Gaborik-esque release, but still, a goalie this deep in the playoffs needs to stop that shot. Brodeur didn’t come up with the saves they needed, Henrik did, and we’re sitting pretty up 1-0.
It wasn’t all roses though. The Rangers played a stupid game at times, their passes up the middle, personified by Girardis boneheaded turnover leading to almost 2 full minutes of pressure by the Devils killed them frequently. As did their inability to clear pucks up high and off the boards. The Devils deserve some credit there, but the Rangers have gameplanned those types of plays, they should know exactly where the relief valve is. Usually it’s the high slot with your center, if he’s taken away, and the boards are taken away, you should eat the puck and try to win a board battle. Rangers tried to force pucks through people all night, and it didn’t work. Their penalty kill, while good at times, seemed to, again, lose people in the high slot. Same place where Ovechkin scored in game 6. Devils didn’t make the Rangers pay, but you could see those plays open up for several seconds, then close back down. Rangers need to be more cognizant of that.
Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant tonight. His agility was a thing to behold on the trio of saves he had on Zach Parise, as well as going side to side to flat out rob Kovalchuk. Henrik Lundqvist is not Clemmenson. Henrik Lundqvist is not Theodore. Henrik Lundqvist is not Bryzgalov. Henrik Lundqvist is the best goalie in the world right now. That’s a difference maker folks.
It doesn’t hurt to have a guy like Ryan McDonagh back there either. How many other defenseman with his size and strength can catch Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk on breakaways when Dan Girardi makes horrendous reads?
OK, That’s all for now. See you all on Wednesday!