On To Round Two!
-Written by Alec Baicher
And round one is complete! On Saturday night, the Rangers closed out the series with the Canadians with a 3-1 victory at Madison Square Garden. What a game we had. The Garden was loud, the team was fired up, and Hank looked like the best goalie in the league. Down 1-0 early in that game, Mats Zuccarello, the 5'8'' sparkplug forward of the Rangers, came into the first intermission and delivered a fiery speech that helped lead the team to victory. Mats scored two goals for New York, one being of the power-play variety (FINALLY) and Derek Stepan provided the late dramatics with an empty net goal to seal the deal.
Please watch the goal with Titanic music in the background, absolutely incredible.
Anyway, the Rangers are onto round number two vs the Ottawa Senators who won in OT yesterday to defeat the Boston Bruins in six games. Another chance for the US to assert our dominance over Canada. Nbd, but kbd. The past series had a lot of action going out with the Rangers so here are three takeaways I have from the Montreal series:
1. King Stays the King - Coming into the series, Henrik Lundqvist was labeled as the second best goalie in the series. Coming off his worst season statistically in years, this was warranted as Carey Price of the Canadians is a Vezina Trophy Finalist (top goalie.) However, fans and members of the media forgot that Henri is an elite goalie and brings his best during playoff time. Henrik had a 1.7 Goals Against Average in the series with a 95% save percentage and one shutout. One word: Elite. Nobody in New York deserves a title more than this guy! The defensive improvement in front of him has definitely helped but Hank is standing on his head every night giving Rangers fans confidence game in and game out.
2. Veterans Have Stepped Up - Besides Hank, most of the older veterans for the Rangers have stepped up. Specifically Rick Nash. Everyone knows the story with Nash. Amazing regular season stats in New York, but doesn't show up in the playoffs. Rinse and repeat. Well, last series he found the back of the net twice, including the game winner in game 4. The stats don't jump right out at you, but he is skating with more confidence and poise in the playoffs than we have seen with since he has got to New York. Captain Ryan McDonagh, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan, Michael Grabner, and Dan Girardi have played exceptional as well. The series with Montreal was very defensive based and I expect to see the ice open much more against Ottawa as they don't pack the defense in as much as the Canadians did. Plus, they don't have Carey Price.
3. Where are the young guys? - Chris Kreider? JT Miller? Hello? Are you out there?! Kreider and Miller were non existent this series plain and simple. And to Ranger fans, that isn't good. However, the Rangers showed they can still beat a goaltender like Carey Price without Kreider and Miller performing. Jimmy Vessey looked decent in his first playoff series and Mika Zibanejad scored the game winner in OT of game 5 but still haven't been involved in the games as much as we have hoped for. All in all, I look for the young guys to utilize their speed and skill in a series where the ice will be open and more plays can be made.
There you have it folks. Is it Thursday yet? Follow me on twitter (@shake_n_baich) Thursday as we get ready to claim Canada as our own once again.
P.S. Cue the music again!