NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers celebrates his third period goal with teammates in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 14, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
- What a big win for the New York Rangers, and what a performance by this team to grind out a victory against a New Jersey Devils team that had much more jump after nearly a week layoff between the second round and the Eastern Conference Finals. Yes, there were major lapses in the second period, too many turnovers and a few instances in which it seemed like the Rangers were killing a penalty even though it was 5-on-5, but I think that had more to do with the Rangers being a little more tired than the Devils being the better team on the ice. Either way, the Rangers rectified that in the second intermission and came out with an vengeance in the third period.
- I think it's about time we shine a major spotlight on Ryan McDonagh. Here's a 22-year-old kid who is easily one of the best defenseman on the Rangers, and might be solidifying his place as one of the best defenseman in the playoffs -- if not the best. You want to talk about Chris Kreider's development, star power, unlimited ceiling, potential and poise? Fine. You want to talk about Marc Staal being back and Dan Girardi really becoming a monster this season? Fine. You want to talk about the emergence of Carl Hagelin, how Brad Richards is worth every penny, how Henrik Lundqvist is proving his doubters wrong, how Michael Del Zotto is becoming a complete defenseman before our eyes or how Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov are taking the next steps to turning into playoff performers? Fine. All of those players deserve every inch of credit you can give them. But let's give a huge ovation to McDonagh, who might be making the biggest strides out of any of those players, he's just been so good for so long that people think it's commonplace for him. Which it is, which is special. This kid is a hell of a defenseman, and he will be for a long time. If the chips are down, and I need one defenseman on the ice, it's Ryan McDonagh.
Join me after the jump for more.
- Why don't we also give a big stick salute to Lundqvist, who wasn't tested often but when he was tested he was big. His three-save sequence on Zach Parise was immense, especially in a 0-0 game. Throw that in with a brilliant left to right save on Ilya Kovalchuck (I think) in the second and you have another spectacular performance.
- I mentioned Kreider's development above, but it was on full display again Monday night. Give John Tortorella a lot of credit for giving him big minutes, an give Kreider more credit for using those minutes and making the most of them. He used his speed and patience on the Dan Girardi goal, showing off his patience and underrated playmaking ability. Not too much later, he showed off his lethal finishing. That was a hell of a shot, and it's magnified by his recognition that Martin Brodeur was out of position and he let off a quick rocket despite not being able to settle the rolling puck. Every time he is on the ice good things happen. Every time he gets off the ice at the end of a shift you just sit there and go, "My God is this kid special." He showed why again Monday night.
- If you noticed, Tortorella has created what I'm calling the "Defensive Line," which is Brian Boyle, Artem Anisimov and Ruslan Fedotenko. Every time the Rangers have a big defensive zone face off, or needed to settle things downc they were on the ice.
- You know how the Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider line is the "Captain America Line?" What do we call it when Ryan McDonagh is on the ice with them? The Supercharged Captain America Line? I dunno. Help me here.
- Give Girardi and Del Zotto a lot of credit for their offense in this series along with their defense. Second game-winning goal for Girardi in the playoffs. That was a hell of a play by Kreider to get the puck, wait for a training Girardi and send a perfect pass into space for him. What a shot by Girardi, too.
- Also, guys, make sure to check out SB Nation New York's recap of the game, which you can see here.