HENRIK LUNDQVIST SHUTS DOWN OVECHKIN AND CO.
The best goaltender in the NHL came up huge for the Rangers and pitched a shutout against one of the premier offensive teams in the league. He denied Alex Ovechkin, he denied Nicklas Backstrom, he said no to Mike Green, and he shut the door on the Washington Capitals as the Rangers now have a commanding 2-0 lead heading back to The Garden. The Rangers needed their best player to make a difference and so far, he's led the Blueshirts to back to back victories. The Rangers still have their work cut out for them, but the dim light at the end of the tunnel is in sight.
- Ryan Callahan was by far the Rangers best player, aside from Henrik Lundqvist of course. He was absolutely everywhere. He scored the lone goal of the game on a beautiful shot on a 2 on 1 and made his presence felt everytime he touched the ice. He did everything that is required to win playoff games, he blocked every shot he could get in front of, he threw the body whenever it was possible, he skated like the wind, and in the end was just as big of a reason for the victory as Lundqvist. It was a very impressive performance by the 24 year old, following up a great game 1, with an absolutely phenomenal game 2. What made his game even better was the frustration Alexander Semin showed when he cross checked him in the face after a big hit, drawing a 2 minute penalty and keeping the Caps best players on the bench.
- If I were the kind of guy who would put together a 'three stars of the game' my third star would be Nik Antropov (w/ the 1st being Lundqvist and the 2nd being Callahan obviously, oh look at me, I just made one). Antropov not only created some offensive chances, but he made numerous defensive plays in the defensive zone and on the back check that made a very difficult job for Lundqvist, just a tad easier. He has been a great pick up for the Rangers at the deadline and it was a good move by Sather.
- Alex Ovechkin wore himself out this game. His relentless attack had him gassed by the middle of the third period, along with the rest of the Capitals players. The Rangers are forcing the star players of the Caps to play a hard hat style of game and I don't think the Capitals have been up to the challenge. The Rangers did their best to bog things down and make the game more about the battles along the boards and in the corners than about pure speed through the neutral zone. As a team the Rangers did a great job of getting their sticks in the passing lanes and getting position on the Caps players.
- Everytime the Rangers have Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival on the ice the Rangers are rolling the dice. But a very encouraging sign was that Staal and Girardi both stepped up their games and played very well. Especially Staal who was not only physical, but displayed his ability to control the puck in the defensive zone and make the first pass that will make him one of the great defenseman in the league someday.
- The Rangers lack of scoring on the power play is going to bite them in the ass. They have to capitalize on every chance they are given against the Capitals. With the exception of their first power play, the rest looked like the Tom Renney days. It's something has to be fixed for the Rangers to advance.
- Nikolai Zherdev needs to show up and play. He has been quiet so far, almost invisible actually. He had a shot or two today and drew a penalty on Mike Green (which was a bit of a softie by the stripes) but other than he once again did nothing.
- The playoffs are a time for players to be warriors and that's exactly what Freddy Sjostrom and Chris Drury are. Sjostrom was hurt late in the game and was clearly in a ton of pain on the bench, but he managed not to miss a shift and made a big impact on the remaining of the game with his defensive play. Drury clearly wasn't himself and did his best not to be a step behind. Whatever kept him out of game 1 looks like it nearly kept him out in game 2. But he battled and helped the team to a victory.
- His 'antics' were quiet but Sean Avery played a solid hockey game. He was a physical presence as always but he made good plays in his own end and in the offensive zone throughout the game. Him and Mike Green yapped a little bit and exchanged a few hits, but it looks like that matchup has taken a bit of a backseat for now.
- I didn't know Michal Nylander brought his scuba gear to the playoffs. Clearly a dive on the 'trip' by Antropov. I love how the NBC geniuses called out Zherdev for what looked like a soft call and didn't say a word about Nylander putting up a 10 out of 10 from all three judges - even that surly Russian one gave him some love on that dive.
-Starting Simeon Varlamov was a gutsy move by Bruce Boudreau. It nearly worked as the Rangers only managed to score one early goal on him. Varlamov played well enough to earn another start, but then again, Jose Theodore didn't play bad enough to be pulled, so who knows what humpty dumpty has up his sleeve.
The Rangers have a ton of work to do to put the Caps away. They need to work on their power play and have to continue to commit to playing strong team defense. But right now they have the momentum in the series and have the Capitals stewing in frustration as they head back to New York.