Rangers Vs. Penguins: That Was A Big One
Notes from the Rangers' overtime victory over the Penguins in Game One of Round Two.
- I know, I know. They're all big games now, right? Well, this one was probably even bigger than normal. It's hard to describe the enormity of that win, but in the simplest terms: The Rangers grabbed a victory on the road, took back home ice in the series and are guaranteed to come back to MSG no worse than 1-1. That's big. Especially when Game 3 comes 24 hours after Game 2.
- I know it's not fun during, but there's nothing like playoff overtime. Me and my buddy Ant were watching the game together and it went from jubilation, to confusion (originally I thought the puck was in, and ended up being right, but with overtime you can't give your heart a minutes rest) then back to jubilation. There's nothing like it. One goal. Game over. Emotions everywhere. Best playoffs in sports and it's not even close. Best sport, too, but I digress ...
- Much like the Rangers' first game against the Flyers, that wasn't New York's best effort, and yet they still came away with a win. Don't get me wrong, there were moments of real clarity for the Rangers. The first period is exactly how you want to play the Penguins. Use your speed, forecheck the hell out of them, crash the net, just keep shooting and keep their weapons to the outside. The third period was good, too, in the Rangers working through the Penguins' surge and tightening up defensively. It was the second period where the Rangers fell back on their heels, let the Penguins dictate the tempo and ended up giving up two.
- Overtime was a picture-perfect example of how important the Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello line is. That trio was churning all night, created the first goal of the game, had chances throughout and then scored both game-winners.
- Another thing to note about that OT goal. After Brassard scored and the game kept going, give him a lot of credit for continuing to play (after stopping for two seconds to point to the net), making a friggin' brilliant pass to Pouliot who was cool, calm and collective in "finishing the game." It was very clear after replay that Brassard's rifled shot hit twine so the game was over there, but in a moment of chaos that line got the job done. And they got it done twice.
- Brassard was quiet in the first round, but had his best game of the playoffs in Game 7. Now in Game 1 of the Second Round he scored the game-winning goal in overtime. He looks like he's coming around, which is vital, he's a big part of this team's success.
- Pouliot is tied for second on the Rangers in points with three goals and three assists for six points in eight games. In his playoff career (before coming to New York) he had a goal and three assists in 28 games. I don't know what he's done, but Alain Vigneault has gotten the best out of Pouliot -- who does have just a wealth of skill.
- This team goes as Brad Richards goes? For the most part, yep. And he was good. That's a cool, calm finish from a savvy veteran on the Rangers' second goal.
- I loved Carl Hagelin and Dan Carcillo's game. Really, really good effort from those two in the forechecking department. And Carcillo drew a penalty and did his thing.
- The first line, I thought, was decent at times. Martin St. Louis had three glorious chances and couldn't finish any of them. Derek Stepan made some big defensive plays but wasn't doing much on offense. Rick Nash had a great game overall without the offense (more on this in a minute).
- Marc Staal -- and I've been saying this for a long time -- has quietly been the Rangers most consistent defenseman. He and Anton Stralman have been remarkable on the second pairing, and they're allowing the Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh machine (who have been mostly good, mind you) to take on less responsibilities. That's huge.
- Remember when we all made fun of Stralman for rejecting Glen Sather's three-year, $3-million offer? Not anymore.
- Uhh, fix the power play, guys. Put John Moore at the point. Put McDonagh back at the point. Change the formation, change the plan. Do something. Because an 0-for power play will likely spell death for the Rangers in this series. You need to punish the Penguins when you have the chance.
- Finally, with Nash. I'm going to write a story up on this soon, so I won't go into too much detail. But here's my thoughts on Nash: He hasn't been invisible for six of these eight playoff games. He's been involved, active, creating chances, playing well defensively and forechecking. I don't care about the goals alone, but I do care about the offense. If Nash had eight assists in eight game it would be different. But he hasn't recorded a point in four games. And while I do think that few players can impact the game the way he can even when they're not scoring, Nash needs to start creating more offense. I will also say, he is having some of the worst puck-luck I've ever seen. And he is getting shots, but eventually some need to hit the twine.