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Rangers Vs. Canadiens: Pressure Released

New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens - Game One Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
  • When I spoke on the podcast Tuesday I argued that I preferred to be the road team in the playoffs (although I bow to the ultimate advantage of a home Game 7). Why? Because all the pressure is on the home team to sweep the first two games. When you’re the road team you have a single goal: Split the series. The playoffs is all about the release and buildup of pressure. The Rangers released their pressure (if not urgency) by winning Game 1, and now all the pressure is on Montreal to not take Madison Square ice down 2-0 like they did in 2014.
  • That’s not to say the Rangers shouldn’t have an enormous sense of urgency to go up 2-0 in the series. I do not (and will not) buy the nonsense that the Rangers are a different team at home. They’re not. You should want them to go up 2-0 in the series because the Rangers are a flawed team, and as much cushion as they can get increases their chances to win the series.
  • The Rangers played a little shaky the first 10 minutes, and Montreal seemed jacked up by the crowd. They threw their weight around and seemed more involved in doing that than anything else. But the Rangers worked their way through the storm, got a little lucky with that Tanner Glass goal and then dominated the next 20 minutes of the game. They played a solid third period until the Rangers put the landing gear down and had to weather the storm a bit, but Henrik Lundqvist was an animal.
  • Overall, the Rangers played a solid game. They had the edge (even if small) in the scoring chance battle, and played a solid possession game. Led by the fourth line, of all things. Oscar Lindberg was a beast. I’ll get to Glass in a moment, but that unit provided the spark the Rangers seem to think they can. They did, which was great.
  • For those who keep saying Lundqvist isn’t a playoff performer, I have nothing more to say to you. OK, one more thing:
  • Let’s talk about Glass for a minute. First of all, as much as I don’t think he belongs in the lineup (and still don’t), and as much as I’m bitter about Pavel Buchnevich sitting (and will be until the end of time), I’m still rooting for the Rangers to win. That includes Glass. I want Glass to succeed as much as anyone else on the team. Throw shade at me for not thinking he deserves to be there. Fine. But I’ll tell you what, as bitter as I will be about Buchnevich sitting, if that Glass keeps playing I’ll keep my mouth shut. Historically that hasn’t happened, but so what.
  • To this point: I feel like playing Glass is like hitting with 18 in blackjack. Last night Alain Vigneault hit 21. Great. But the minute he busts out he needs to be able to do the right thing. Historically that hasn’t happened either, but we’ll see.
  • I thought Jimmy Vesey had a hell of a game considering it was his first playoff game in a rocking enemy house. Mats Zuccarello was active as was Rick Nash and Chris Kreider.
  • I didn’t love Mika Zibanejad’s game, or Michael Grabner’s (until the empty net goal, of course). Nick Holden had about as bad of a game as he possibly could have. Brendan Smith continues to be a shining light on this defense. The Rangers handled themselves better than I thought they would (although Lundqvist was the difference for sure) so hopefully it sticks around.
  • On the flip side, it was Montreal who was playing their toughness late in the game down a goal. It was wonderful, and helped the Rangers make a smoother landing. Of the 88 hits that were made by both teams in the game, 22 were made with players on the puck (courtesy of Andrew above). I felt like Montreal was more interested in playing physical than anything else.
  • The Rangers did the job they needed to do, and if they keep playing like that they’re going to be a scary team. Lundqvist is the great equalizer, but Carey Price is as dangerous as can be as well. He played out of his head, and aside from Glass’ seeking missile the Rangers couldn’t solve him. He’s going to continue to be an issue, and if the Rangers need to start generating some offense they’re going to have to made a few swaps.