After the New York Rangers game two loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, I wrote ten thoughts about the series so far. I was optimistic about the series going forward, but in no way could I have predicted that the Rangers would win the next three, including two road games and two overtime victories. That being said, the Rangers wrapped up the series Friday night, finally defeating their postseason opponents in fewer than seven games. Here are ten thoughts on the series that was.
1. Before getting into the analysis portion of this post, I would like to speak as a Rangers fan. What a series! Despite the 4-1 finish, each game could have gone either way, and the two overtime finishes likely took years off of my life. Kevin Hayes' first career overtime goal had me jumping on my couch, but Carl Hagelin outdid him two nights later and had me lifting my family members in the air. If you have ever seen me, you would know that is nearly impossible for me to do. Playoff hockey is the absolute best, and I cannot wait for the next round.
2. I have seen a lot of articles about the Capitals or Islanders mopping the floor with the Rangers because the Rangers did have difficulties with a depleted by injuries Penguins squad. I understand the line of thinking, but the rebuttal is simple: the Rangers were awful in a lot of game four, yet won. The Rangers have shown throughout this season they can play much better than they did in any of the five games against the Penguins, yet they still won in five games. This Penguins team is no joke even with their injuries. Any time a team has Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin they will be a tough team to handle. Yet it took the Rangers only five games to finish the series, and despite the close scores I find that encouraging.
3. When Dominic Moore was the man to score the Eastern Conference clinching goal last postseason I was thrilled because no one deserved it more. One year later, and it was Dominic Moore who outworked and out-muscled both Sidney Crosby and Paul Martin along the boards, dropping the puck off to the game winning goal scorer Carl Hagelin. Moore could have taken more money in the off-season to play elsewhere, but instead stuck with the Rangers in his fourth line defensive specialist role. His return has certainly paid off for the team throughout the season so far, and hopefully the team can repay him in victories throughout the postseason.
4. The first period in game four was one of the worst periods of hockey I have witnessed in my life. The Penguins held the puck for almost the entire period, and the Rangers could have easily let up when the pressure mounted. Instead, Henrik Lundqvist managed to keep the Penguins lead down to one goal, and the Rangers came out firing in the second period, eventually tying it up. The lack of consistency this series was a bit alarming, but the ability to hit the switch and take over the game with seemingly no indication of being about to do so is encouraging.
The Blueshirts will not be able to beat many teams playing that way, but since the first period of game four until the end of the series the team seemed to be in a different gear. Hopefully going forward we will not see the game four period one Rangers, as that team could lose to the Buffalo Sabres.
5. Switch Henrik Lundqvist out for an average goalie and I think the Rangers are at best up 3-2 going into Pittsburgh Sunday. Depending on your line of thinking that could be a strong negative, or something you shrug off. The issue with saying "the Rangers can't keep winning like this, it isn't sustainable" is that Henrik Lundqvist is not about to become an average goalie. Much like Carey Price for the Montreal Canadiens, when the team is struggling to score Henrik Lundqvist can win games on his own. I would not say Lundqvist won this series on his own, but he certainly played a major role.
But hey, let's put in Cam Talbot, right?
6. Rick Nash played terrific two-way hockey as always and had one goal and three assists in the series. That may cause concern for some, but to me as long as the team is winning and he is helping them win, I am pleased. If you do not like the "Rick Nash is a disappointment" articles, don't read them. It works for me.
7. On the ice for the series-winning goal: Carl Hagelin, Dominic Moore, Jesper Fast, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Sidney Crosby, among others. Mashed up line with the top defensive pair against the Penguins top line and defensive pair. Still got the job done.
8. By the end of the series I don't think any player disappointed me. Even Tanner Glass was not noticeably bad, which is a major step up for him. Once again I do not think the team played their best hockey yet, so I am confident going into the series against the Capitals or Islanders. Dan Girardi was somewhat surprisingly fantastic going up against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and will need to do the same against Nic Backstrom/Alexander Ovechkin, or Kyle Okposo/John Tavares.
9. Watch this. I love this team. Carlos Hagelin!
10. Let's Go Rangers!