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Handy Dandy Playoff Notebook: Keep Pushing Forward

  • The New York Rangers are three wins away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, and tonight they look to defend home ice once again. If they are successful, they will take a 2-0 series lead, and will put themselves in a very good spot.
  • Despite the Rangers’ six-goal outburst in Game 1, Game 2 will pose another challenge, and that is facing Andrei Vasilevskiy after a loss. “The Big Cat” is 18-0 following a loss since the start of the 2020 playoffs, and it is something the Tampa Bay Lightning are likely taking solace in as they attempt to head back home with a split.
  • I don’t expect Vasilevskiy to look as bad as he did in Game 1, and it isn’t that he himself was all that bad, but I don’t think the Rangers are going to care about this stat.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins were 6-0 lifetime in Game 7s played on the road. The Rangers defeated them. The Carolina Hurricanes were undefeated at home during these playoffs. The Rangers dispatched them easily to advance to the Conference Final.
  • If the Rangers can manufacture another win, it will continue to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the 2x defending champs, and will take away their psychological advantage of always being able to bounce back after a loss.
  • This team is still riding an emotional high, and while the Lightning are going to be better prepared to play Game 2 than they were in Game 1, I think this Rangers team is equipped to bring the intensity for another game before things level off back at Amalie Arena.
  • A lot of attention is being paid to the 6 goals the Rangers scored in Game 1, but the fact that Igor Shesterkin only allowed 2 is a bit overlooked. He was sensational, again, and made a number of key stops on Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov is a player who will adjust, and he’s going to get opportunities in this series, and he’ll likely score or assist on a few goals.
  • Game 1 was the third game in a row in which he made 37 saves on 39 shots, and at some point the Rangers need to tighten things up and make life easier for him. Their ultimate aspirations hinge of Igor continuing to do his thing, but having a few games where he can not be as tested.
  • I don’t know what more I can say about the Kid Line. In the time since the Rangers first faced elimination since the Pittsburgh Penguins, the trio of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko have been the most consistent and productive. Gerard Gallant has been getting better about finding more minutes for them, and they are starting to click in a manner similar to that of Tampa Bay’s “Triplets” in 2015.
  • If the Rangers can start getting some positive results out of their top six from an underlying numbers perspective, the ultimate dream becomes that much more attainable. The top end players have been contributing with more frequency, but there needs to be more consistency on the other side of the puck.
  • Tampa Bay had a lot of chances, and if they are given a chance to get rolling, they will assert themselves. The Rangers have a chance to avoid that, and it is likely they’ll look to draw on experience from earlier in the playoffs when they were unable to make life easier for themselves.
  • Lastly, I think the end of the game was somewhat similar to the Rangers final meeting of the season with Pittsburgh. The various players involved in scrums didn’t back down, and weren’t bothered by any physicality. It was quite funny to see all the Rangers laughing, grinning, and looking pretty unbothered by Tampa Bay.
  • While they are a skilled team by nature, in previous playoffs the Lightning have been able to get physical when needed, with players like Pat Maroon usually serving as a sheriff of sorts.
  • Maybe it is naivety, maybe it is swagger, but this group just doesn’t care about things that happen to them, and they really are embodying what some might have felt to be a dumb hashtag at first. #NoQuitInNY has been a pretty nice rallying cry, and one that has grown on this group nicely.
  • I think a lot of fans watching are getting some strong feelings about this team as the playoffs has continued. There were multiple opportunities for the Penguins and Hurricanes to knock the Rangers out of the playoffs, but they found a way to survive. And because they have hung around they are in a situation where they can do something special.
  • We learn more about this group each and every game, and tonight is another moment for this team to teach us something, and for them to grow as a unit. This very well could be the most important game of the series for Tampa Bay, and if the Rangers are able to hold their own... that will really say something good about the team and their potential in the future.