Rangers 2, Canadiens 0.
Rangers lead series 1-0.
Look! A full review! I’m using at least three quarters of my ass today.
- I don’t want to waste any time getting right to the biggest story in terms of potential impact on the series: Henrik Lundqvist was phenomenal. It was vintage Lundqvist, who now is 2-0 with a 0.00 GAA and 1.000 sv % in his last two playoff games against Montreal. The save he made on Weber in the second period was incredible. The “if” for him now is if he can keep playing like he did last night. If he does continue to play this way, we not only have a good chance to win the series, but we have a good chance to make it to the Cup Final.
- Henrik Lundqvist was the biggest story of the night, but only slightly less impactful was Tanner Glass. E3, surely in jest, predicted at 6:48 PM that Glass would score the first goal of the night. If he had tried to place a bet on that in Vegas they probably would have turned him away because it wouldn’t have been fair to accept it. Even still, he scored, on a great backhand. It was the kind of goal that reminds you that even the worst NHL players are still amazing at hockey. Even Price’s reaction to the shot told you that he did not think for a second that the shot Glass took was even in the realm of possibility.
- Glass was impactful even without the goal. He skated and competed hard. He was in on the forecheck, he was in front of the net, he was fighting on the wall, he was average defensively (a huge improvement from his normal liability status). The fourth line, in general, was excellent, as it has been over the past two weeks. I thought Lindberg was particularly effective and unlucky not to score.
- The defense came through in spades. I actually thought that, surprisingly, McDonagh was one of the least effective defensemen throughout the game, especially in the offensive zone and on the powerplay, where he struggled mightily. Girardi had a huge game. He was physical, he was positioned well, and he made smart and simple plays with the puck. Staal used his size well in brushing off forechecks by some of the smaller Montreal forwards to create time and space for himself. Holden had a solid game. Skjei continues to be our best puck mover. Even Brendan Smith came on strong in the second half of the game after a rough start and another penalty (albeit, it looked like a phantom high stick to me).
- The top 9 forwards, on the other hand, were disappointing, especially in their finishing. The Kreider-Stepan-Zuccarello line was completely neutralized. The only time I even noticed Zuccarello on the ice was when he was getting into scrums around our net. The battle of two shrimps between him and Gallagher is definitely entertaining, though, Zuccarello should not let himself get distracted by that pest. The other two top lines didn’t fare much better, but I should note that Vesey-Zibanejad-Nash did generate a lot of scoring chances but the finishing was poor (missed the net, right into Price, you know, the usual Rangers shooting targets).
- So let’s see, Lundqvist was better than Price, our defense was really good, Glass was our best forward, and our forwards as a whole were worse than Montreal. Yup, totally nailed it in my preview. Honestly, in the universe of potential outcomes for this game 1-0 (or 2-0 with the ENG) was one of the outcomes that I expected the least.
- Now let’s look at the game itself. Hockey is one of the few sports where you can have a 1-0 game (2-0 with the ENG) be an entertaining game. This wasn’t the best 1-0 game I’ve ever seen (that honor would go to a Rangers-Devils game that was actually 0-0 and the Devils won in a shootout), but it’s up there. It had its ebbs and flows, changes in momentum, it had violent physicality, unlikely heroes, and perhaps most importantly for us, a Rangers win.
- The first period was an acceptable road period. Montreal dominated possession, but the Rangers managed to severely limit quality scoring chances. In fact, aside from a chance for Pacioretty and a powerplay opportunity for Shaw that went just wide (I think that was in the first), Montreal had nothing to really show for its high shot total of 14. The first powerplay had a good opportunity for Zuccarello (I think) on the weak side, but he had a hard time teeing up the shot and when he finally got off a backhand, Price gobbled it up.
- There was a moment when Kreider was alone, chasing a loose puck down the ice towards Price who had come out to play it by the hash marks. Kreider made an early and wide loop around Price to avoid even the possibility of contact, but in doing so he also avoided the possibility of intercepting Price’s pass. If they didn’t have a history together, I imagine Kreider would have been a lot more aggressive in pursuing that puck. He needs to play like he doesn’t care about the perception of his play being overly aggressive with respect to goaltender contact.
- That was the positive for the first period. The negative was that the Rangers were pinned in their zone for much of the period. Their defensemen were not doing a good job moving the puck from behind the net, forcing the forwards to come deep into the zone, thereby limiting their ability to have a clean zone exit.
- With the words and bubble gum snaps of AV still ringing in their ears, the Rangers came out in the second period like gangbusters, totally dominating the first ten minutes. They did this by eliminating the Montreal breakout. We had completely clogged up the neutral zone and Montreal couldn’t get the puck into our zone. It was incredible to watch.
- Then there was a string of penalties which sapped all of the Rangers’ momentum. Initially, I should note that the penalty kill performed adequately. There were some scrambles in front that were dangerous, especially the one chance by Shaw that just missed wide, and Weber’s back door shot that was awesomely saved by Lundqvist, but overall, we shut them down.
- The power play was a tire fire, especially the 5 on 3. A group of statues making meaningless passes around the perimeter, and then McDonagh committing the absolute worst sin you can commit on a 5 on 3: He shot it wide to the far side and the puck goes all the way down the ice. Forget that he even missed. That shot was such a poor selection. The Rangers’ remaining power plays went equally poorly.
- After the penalties, Montreal reasserted itself. The Rangers had 9 of the first 10 shots of the 2nd period, but were outshot 8-4 over the rest of the period, including the ten bell save on Weber (which I think was in the second and may have been on the PP).
- We again looked good to start the third, but as the game started to reach its end, we starting to fall back into a defensive shell to hang on for the 1-0 win. I typically don’t like this approach because you are just inviting pressure, but given how we had only given up one odd man rush all game(3 on 2), I would have liked to have seen us try and control the puck a bit more to help limit the pressure on our defense and Lundqvist. It ended up working out, but that’s just a philosophical difference.
- We actually won a lot of faceoffs, including against Steve Ott, who is one of the best in the game. And the ones we didn’t win, we fought hard to keep the Canadiens from having clean possession. The empty net goal by Grabner was an example of that, as Fast took what should have been a clean possession for Montreal (after a wish pass from Radulov), chipped it out to a speeding Michael Grabner who scored on the empty net after Radulov blocked his centering feed (and almost blocked the goal, too). Also, how about Hayes being the guy AV trusted to be out there at the end of the game. He’s come a long way from last year’s debacle.
- I had to watch the first 10 minutes of the game on NBCSN’s app because I was on my way home. I’m torn over which network to watch the game on. To me, a Rangers game isn’t a Rangers game unless Sam is calling it, but given how he’s been slipping a bit in his old age, especially in the eye sight department, and how insufferable Joe is, I’m leaning a bit towards NBCSN for game 2. Gord Miller is an average Canadian play-by-play guy, which makes him better than most American ones. And Ray Ferraro is an absolute delight for color commentary. Both intermissions are insufferable aside from Steve Valliquette’s analysis, which has improved in leaps and bounds since he first started.
- Going forward into game 2 on Friday, there were a lot of positive things to build off of, but there are still some glaring problems. We still only scored 1 goal on Price. Our “1st” line was completely neutralized. The PP was brutal. We had trouble at times with our breakouts and with possession.
- As Carp would say, expect it to be 1-1 after 2, 2-2 after 4, and probably 3-3 after 6. Also, expect to hear a lot about how the Rangers stole home ice.
- Last night’s post set the RR2 record by almost 100 and the 2nd place post was up for almost a full 24 hours leading into the trade deadline. You guys are the best.
My Three Rangers Stars:
- Henrik Lundqvist
- Tanner Glass
- Dan Girardi
Your Three Rangers Stars:
- Tanner Glass
- Henrik Lundqvist
- Dan Girardi