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Rangers Will Need To Keep Their Composure In Game 2

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New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens - Game One Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

You can expect a raucous atmosphere in any NHL building during the playoffs. It’s one of those over-used cliches that never seems to die.

Montreal is only different in that it actually hits the mark. One of the toughest buildings to play in, filled by some of the most loyal fans. No one said it would be easy.

The Rangers did a very good job weathering the storm in Game 1. There were two moments when the game seemed like it could turn (the first 10 minutes of the first and the middle ten of the third) but Henrik Lundqvist was there to plug the holes in the dam.

There is a mix of players on this team who are young enough to be a part of the vital core but old enough to be veterans who know how to get through those storms. Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Jesper Fast, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider. The guys who can help the younger kids get through those moments and lead the way. That doesn’t even include older guys like Marc Staal, Lundqvist and Rick Nash. This is a team that’s going to have to rely on their composure to make it through this series.

If Game 1 was an indication, the defense (which everyone expects to be an issue) might be able to handle themselves so long as the bottom three don’t totally implode.

Brendan Smith was exceptional. Brady Skjei was, too. McDonagh was Ryan McDonagh. Dan Girardi was as good as one could hope for in the circumstances, even if Staal struggled and Nick Holden was completely overwhelmed.

As I’ve spoken about before, Montreal has all the pressure on their shoulders right now. The home team is expected to sweep the first two games, and all the Rangers want to do is win one of them. Now that they’ve done that, Montreal simply can’t lose Game 2. They can’t go to Madison Square Garden down 2-0 and not have a pit in their stomach about the way the series is going. The Rangers get to revise their desires as well, and you don’t need me to tell you that a 2-0 lead going to the home leg of your playoff series would be a nice thing to have in your pocket.

That means they’re going to bring it. Montreal is a gnawing, annoying and often tempting. The Rangers can’t get sucked into that trap. As much as the inclusion of Tanner Glass is being sold as the physical presence the Rangers need, this team is not built to operate that way. Especially not as the focus. Getting baited into bad penalties, moving out of position to throw hits or being more worried about who to get back at doesn’t help anyone.

The Rangers are a quick team that rely on those fast transitions. Smith has added a defenseman who can actually do that, and Skjei’s emergence as another has been as fun as it has been eye-opening. The offense is speed and skill for the most part. It’s a precious balance.

Losing those moments to get into a physical war with Montreal doesn’t serve anyone. At some points in Game 1 I felt like Montreal was far more concerned with hitting than they were the game, which suits the Rangers just fine.

Tonight might be more of the same. But Montreal is going to be a caged animal, since their back is against the wall. They’re going to bring it.

The Rangers need to be composed enough to handle it.