NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers celebrates his third period goal with teammates in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Washington Capitals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 28, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
- Why don't we start with the Chris Kreider goal, since it might be one of the coolest moments I've ever experienced at Madison Square Garden. Think about all the pent up emotions surrounding him. He's the most hyped prospect to come from the Rangers' farm in recent memory -- and with twitter and social media, he probably is the most hyped prospect the organization has ever had. He's the hero from Game 6 in round one, then he plays his best game in Game 7. The difference? Game 6 was on the road. He scored the game-winning goal Monday in a knotted game in which the Rangers needed a big goal at home. There is the difference. he did it in New York, at the Garden in a big spot. Then he added an assist while the crowd was still chanting his name. He was also the first star of the game. Really, really cool and exciting. Like I've been saying, to play that well in these kind of situations is special. I haven't heard the Garden explode like that. Ever.
- Anyway, onto the game. This was a big win for the Rangers, and it's magnified by the fact that this team was tired and played the first period without any legs or jump. I'm not sure if it was because they just finished the Ottawa series on Thursday (they told the media they weren't fatigued) or if they just came out flat, but if the Washington Capitals were on their game to start the first period this would have been a much, much different result.
Join me after the jump for more.
- Although he didn't have to work much, Henrik Lundqvist was spectacular again. The Capitals hit the post four times when all was said and done, but on two of though instances Lundqvist got a piece of the shots. Still, the Capitals hit posts during points of the game when the momentum would have swung significantly had the puck gone in.
- Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal all had fantastic games. If I had to pick one of them who played the best, I would give the nod to McDonagh. All night he harassed the Capitals' forwards and make sure that the more dangerous players (Alexander Semin, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom) didn't have space with the puck.
- I was also a fan of Michael Del Zotto's game. I thought he looked good on the power play and was solid in the defensive zone. He was a pretty big part of the Rangers' success in the first round and that won't change against the Capitals. He got off to a good start (aside from one of two nervous passes that lead to turnovers).
- Back to Kreider. He was, once again, one of the Rangers best players. I would say him and Brad Richards were the two biggest difference makers. On the goal, Kreider showed off his brilliant shot, taking the puck on the end of his shift and just riffling a shot home. But just a few minutes later he was back on the ice again, went into the corners and gave Richards a perfect pass into space for the Rangers' third goal of the game.
- Richards has been the Rangers most consistent players this postseason -- aside from Lundqvist -- and he was huge again Saturday afternoon. That goal he scored was gargantuan, especially considering how close the Capitals came to making the game 3-2.
- I think Derek Stepan has finally come into his own in the playoffs. Every since his breakout game in Game 6 he's been a monster for the Rangers. Another assist on Saturday brings his postseason total up to four. He's been important too.
- Artem Anisimov got the first goal, and was solid in both ends. The thing I liked about his goal the most? He never quit, and kept his motor running all game. One of the few (Kreider, Richards, McDonagh and Lundqvist were the others) who were jumping in that first period.