Tuesday, May 08, 2012

N.Y. Rangers ~ It's The Ones They Don't See


Rangers Lead Series 3-2

I  -  NYR 3; WASH 1
II  -  WASH 3; NYR 2
III  -  NYR 2; WASH 1
IV  -  WASH 3; NYR 2
V  -  NYR 3; WASH 2
III Triple Overtime
V Overtime


NEW YORK RANGERS:  Mark Messier Always Used to Say Winning Game Four Was the Hardest Thing to Do.

The King Needs His Horsemen; Game Four
One Hundred Fourteen Minutes Closer to Glory
War of 2012; The Blueshirts Are Coming
Bring On The Capitals!

Anton Stralman, who's found his way in and out of Coach Torts' dog house, scored the Rangers first goal of the night.  The Blueshirts wouldn't get their second until 6.6 seconds left in regulation time.  In between Ranger goals, Washington scored a second period goal to tie the game, and a third period goal to go ahead.

The Rangers' inability to get a shot on goal in Game Four wasn't the case in Game Five.  In Game Four, all they could muster were three shots on goal during the opening period.  In Game Five, the Rangers turned the tables on Washington with a 17-4 first period imposition of their will.  The Rangers led 14 shots to 2 by the time Washington committed their first penalty at 14:31 into the game.  But that power play, like many opportunities before, resulted in no goals, and no shots.

Throughout Game Five, the Rangers out shot Washington.  They took thirty-eight shots on goal, and had another twenty-five shots blocked, for over sixty attempts.  They shot from all angles.  The more shots the Rangers took, the more I thought the biggest difference was Washington's (and Ottawa's) goalie.  First Craig Anderson, and now Braden Holtby, seemed to stay one save ahead of the King.  All of us thought that was just too far fetched.  Yet, our frustration grows because Henrik is getting beat on screened shots and deflections.  The other team's goalie wasn't.

Henrik's Game Five line red two goals allowed off just fifteen shots for Washington upon them  scoring in the third period.  As this series has bulldozed along, Washington kept beating the Rangers at their own game just like Ottawa was doing until stopped.  There were also moments during the second and third periods of Game Five when it seemed as if a triple over time win seemed like too much effort to continually reproduce.

What is now clearly evident over the Rangers' two playoff series is, shots on goal do not matter.  What matters are the old standards - crashing the net, cleaning up slop, and above all, scoring on the power play.  It's always been like that.  In the playoffs, this is where games are ultimately won and lost.  That's how John Carlson put the Capitals ahead in the third.  It was only Washington's third PP goal of the series.  However, that goal was fast becoming the second straight PP goal that would send the Rangers off in defeat.  Game Four, for all intent and purpose, ended on Mike Green's third period PP goal.  Back in Game Two, you guessed it, Alex Ovechkin's power play goal was also the difference in winning and losing.  The three times Washington cashed in with the man-advantage, were fast starting to look like three game winners.

In the closing minute of regulation, Coach Torts already committed to pulling Henrik for the extra skater when Capitals' Joel Ward; unfortunate for him; got tangled up with Carl Hagelin and was whistled for a four minute double minor high sticking penalty at the 19:38 mark.

With the face off coming in the Capitals' zone and Henrik looking on from the bench, the Rangers' held a two man advantage.  Then it happened.  Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards were both crashing the net off a shot from the high left circle.  Callahan was first in but couldn't find the puck.  Then Richards rolled to his left and cleaned up the rebound, slapping it passed Braden Holtby with 6.6 seconds left in regulation.

On the PP continuation, at 18:26 of overtime, Marc Staal unleashed a booming shot from the high slot.  Rangers win.  Two power play goals won the game.  It wasn't the number of shots.  A little closer to the truth, the Rangers also finally scored one of those goals the opposition has been scoring against Henrik; the ones he didn't see or off some cheap deflection.

The Rangers lead this series 3-2, heading to Washington.  They now have two chances to win one game and advance into the Eastern Conference championship round.


*  Yes, with the clock ticking down on a Rangers loss, my mind did indeed flash back to the 1994 Eastern Conference championship Game Seven game between the Rangers and Devils, when New Jersey scored with seven(?) seconds left in regulation; in a game that wound up going into double overtime.  And how many times have we seen the Buffalo Sabres pull that off?

*  I haven't seen a team so blatantly manipulate the puck with their hands, like Washington did towards the end of Game Five, since the Vancouver Canucks did against the Rangers in the 1994 Cup Finals; - And for that matter, the Devils in the Conference finals.  Vancouver manipulated the puck more.  The Devils flopped on the puck.  Washington did both.

*  And yes, the Rangers and Devils are one game each away from a rematch eighteen years later.


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