NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 12: Ryan Callahan #24 (C) of the New York Rangers celebrates with his teammates after they won 4-2 against the Ottawa Senators in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 12, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The New York Rangers have a 1-0 lead in their playoff series with the Ottawa Senators thanks to a 4-2 victory Thursday night. Tonight, the Rangers will try to continue building that momentum and take a 2-0 lead in the series heading back to Ottawa.
Easier said than done.
While the Rangers probably won't be thinking too much about the final 10 minutes of Thursday's win, the Senators will be trying to use those two goals to prove that they can break through the Rangers' defense and beat Henrik Lundqvist.
In my notes of the Rangers' win over the Senators, I said the Rangers controlled play for about 40 minutes in the game.
Here's the breakdown: The Senators clearly controlled play in the final 10 minutes of the game (although most of that had to do with the Rangers taking their foot of the gas) and then a few shifts a period throughout the game. And while those incidents were far and few between, many of them happened early on when the Rangers only had a one or two-goal lead.
Join me after the jump for more.Essentially, the Senators came a goal away from making things interesting early. The Rangers need to make sure that doesn't happen again tonight. The defense was great (until the final 10 minutes) and when the Senators were controlling the play they were generally kept to the outside and had no true scoring chances. And when they did get in low, Lundqvist was there to bail out the Rangers.
But that's not the way the Rangers want to play, not when they have an opportunity to take a strangle-hold on the series before heading into Ottawa for games three and four. And, let's be honest here, if it wasn't for a fantastic penalty kill, Thursday's game could have easily been 2-1 or 3-2 instead of 3-0 and then eventually 4-0.
Enough with the negatives, onto the positives.
The Rangers' offense was good all night. Not only did New York score four goals but it also created multiple scoring chances throughout the game. The two best scoring chances, at least when the game was close, was Craig Anderson's fantastic sliding pad save on Derek Stepan who was alone in the slot and then his quick blocker to deny Marian Gaborik in close.
And while the Rangers didn't score in either of those instances (both goals would have made it 2-0 at the time) the Rangers continued to buzz. That, right there, is one of the main reasons this team has been so successful. They don't get discouraged when things aren't breaking their way, they don't panic when they can't seem to clear the puck out of their zone and they never, ever give up.
They also won the physical battle, by a mile. They rubbed the Senators off the puck, made them pay for lugging the puck over the blue line and battled hard in the corners. Chris Neil can only do so much in terms of the physical play in this series. The Rangers have 20 players who have no problem going into the tough areas of the ice, and fighting hard when they get there. I'm not so sure the Senators can say they have 10 of those players.
The Rangers also have Henrik Lundqvist, which might be the only advantage they hold over every single team in the playoffs (and the NHL for that matter), no matter who they play. He outplayed Anderson Thursday night. He should be doing that, so it should continue tonight.
A 2-0 series lead would be nice. Actually, it would be fantastic. But there is no use in talking about it until it happens. Which is exactly what the Rangers are going to try and do tonight.