Recap: Rangers Rout Rivals in Game 1, 5-1

The Rangers start strong this postseason.

Recap: Rangers Rout Rivals in Game 1, 5-1
Photo by Nicolas Jehly / Unsplash

After what felt like an eternity of meaningless games, the Rangers playoff chase finally began on the road against the Devils.

First Period:

The Rangers’ first marquee trade acquisition scored the first goal of the series. Vladimir Tarasenko started the sequence by powering his way into the zone, and a semi-broken play later, he finished it by wristing home a pass through the high slot from K’Andre Miller. Keep ‘em coming, Vlad!

Another nice leap from Panarin. We need a new microstat for jumps.

Tarasenko nearly assisted a Ryan Lindgren goal, but the defender hit the crossbar on a dangerous shot. Still, a pretty darn good shot by Lindgren. Could this be foreshadowing…?

From there, special teams became the story of the period. The Rangers scored on their lone powerplay, when Chris Kreider redirected a pass from Adam Fox past Vitek Vanacek. The goal was Kreider’s 35thcareer playoff goal, a new Rangers record.

The Rangers' powerplay was perfect, and so was their PK. Not only did they kill off all three penalties, but they didn’t allow a single shot on goal. Mika Zibanejad and Barclay Goodrow both stood out, picking their spots to pressure the puck while always seeming to have their sticks in the passing lane. While it’s great to see the penalty kill continue to excel in the playoffs, it’s less great to take three penalties in one period in the first place.

Throughout the period, the Rangers were blocking shots like it was 2010. The Devils didn’t do themselves any favors either, as they missed the net on many of their shots.

Second period:

The Devils dominated the puck in the first half of the second period. They clogged up the neutral zone and the Rangers didn’t really have an answer at first, as they failed to register a shot on goal for 8:52 to start the period. But for all that neutral zone prowess, the Devils on took eight shots that reached Igor Shesterkin, and he played impeccably.

The Rangers managed some offense in the second half of the period, extending their lead to three. Adam Fox made one of those plays where he looks off the entire opposition before finding a teammate wide-open in the left circle. That teammate was Lindgren. He patiently held the puck before roofing one in the top corner. This is where the Rangers’ goaltending advantage comes into play, as Vanecek was actually in position to make the save put moved his head out of the rising shot. And, like, I’m not going to blame him for that. Even though he’s a professional goalie, he’s also a human, and we humans come hardcoded with certain survival instincts, such as the instinct to move one’s head out of the way of a flying piece of frozen, hard rubber.

But yeah, I bet Shesterkin makes that save.

The Rangers took another penalty, and once again the Devils didn’t even force Shesterkin to make a save. To demonstrate the Devils’ lackluster powerplay, I thought I’d try my hand at a little data visualization. Here is a chart with the total number of powerplay shots on goal for the game:

Visualization courtesy of me

Third Period:

With a three-goal lead in the third period in the playoffs, the Rangers did what most teams do: focus on playing defense and protect the lead. Of course, “focus on defense” and “protect the lead” is actually a euphemism for “play a lot worse and give up a lot of chances,” as we all know. Fortunately, Shesterkin continued to do Shesterkin things.

Midway through the period, Miles Wood caught K’Andre Miller with a high stick, and Miller headed to the locker room with a bloody nose. Somehow, the refs missed this one. Miller was back on the bench less than two minutes later, but any time the refs blow a double minor, it’s frustrating. Especially when your face gets smashed.

A few minutes later, the Rangers oh-so-graciously granted a powerplay when Michael McLeod grabbed onto Tyler Motte’s visor in a post-whistle scrum. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Chris Kreider scored by deflecting an Adam Fox point shot. After gaining the record total Rangers playoff goals earlier, Kreider also took the top spot for Rangers postseason PPGs with 14. He’s such a delight, that Christopher.

With just under three minutes to go, that pesky Jack Hughes sprung loose for a breakaway. Jacob Trouba hooked him and conceded a penalty shot in the process. Hughes scored to bust the shutout, because of course he did.

Lindy Ruff pulled his goalie afterwards, and Filip Chytil responded by immediately scoring an empty net goal, capping off the Rangers 5-1 victory.

. . .

This game was like a manic TV screenwriter and trying to touch on every plot point in one episode. Tarasenko scores in his first Rangers playoff game? Check. Devils better on 5-on-5? Yep. Rangers dominate on special teams? Mhmm. Jack Hughes making things happen on the rush? You betcha. Igor Shesterkin being the x-factor? Oh yeah. Add in Kreider’s franchise record goals and Mika Zibanejad’s birthday and you’ve just got so much stuff going on. Hockey!

With a win to open the series, the Rangers have put themselves in excellent position. The Devils’ ability to create rushes still worries me, and if they manage to actually put the puck on net more often the Rangers could be in trouble. I’ll be curious to see if the Rangers keep defending like John Tortorlla’s back in charge. Between the blocked shots and gruesome, late-game shell, I was filled with the strangest mix of nostalgia and nausea. Anyway, thank God for Shesterkin, am I right?

Game two is Thursday night. Let's go.