Thursday, May 03, 2012

N.Y. Rangers ~ One Hundred Fourteen Minutes Closer to Glory


NEW YORK RANGERS:  Blueshirts Take 2-1 Series Lead in Historic Fashion.

They started on May 2nd, and finished on May 3rd.  At 12:14 a.m., after four hours and forty-four minutes in real time, silence fell upon the Verizon Center.  Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik, and the New York Rangers put the greater Washington D.C. area to bed and turned out the lights on Game Three.

The Blueshirts have become masters of the bounce-back game.  The Rangers will not stay down.  The softest team Joe Thornton ever played just outlasted their second round opponent after five plus periods of furious playoff hockey.  Coach Torts believed the longer the game went, the more it favored his boys.  This is the Rangers.  This is how they do things now.  The Smurfs are dead.  And by the way, so are the San Jose Sharks.

Outside of new players like Carl Hagelin, and Chris Kreider, this team has steadily moved forward this season with the speed and power of a glacier.  Glaciers just push forward.  There's nothing fancy about their progress.  But to see one, and the paths they carve, is majesty in the making.

But for all the commitment to this style of play; for all their hard work keeping the puck deep and fighting along the boards; you still need someone in the slot, or crease, to score.

Sometimes the Rangers over-commit to their style.  You know what I mean - Watching three forwards fight for, and stick handle the puck behind the net, with no real attempts to get in front, then whacking the puck back into the boards for no apparent reason.  That's called being hard-wired.  There are times I ask - What's the end game guys?  And admit it, during the season, you've asked the same thing.  On so many occasions, the most frustrating aspect of this style; at least in the Rangers' case was - Where's the guy in the slot?

But again, this is Rangers Hockey, and it has worked to bring us this far.

The pass from behind the net to someone streaking, or camped in the slot is one of the most effective offensive plays in Hockey.  It gets defensive heads spinning and bodies going in different directions.  The Rangers did less streaking, and more camping Wednesday night.  Look at Ryan Callahan's goal.  Look at Gaborik's goal.  They came from the slot, or the crease, or from in front, or which ever your preference.

This isn't rehashing... Sean Avery was great at digging out pucks behind the net and looking to make that particular pass.  Playing behind the net the way the Blueshirts do is admirable.  So admirable in fact, Washington is copying the style.  But regarding us, what's not to love about this team?  It's just that over playing the boards sometimes leaves us without a quality shot.  I understand we need to possess the puck first.  But there are no shooting angles behind the net.  At some point, someone has to possess and pass, while someone crashes the crease.  And in order to do that, you have to be moving without the puck.

In Game Three, the Rangers finally decided to claim the ice in front of Braden Holtby as their own.  It worked.  It took a while.  But Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik made it work.  Sure Washington hit a couple of posts.  But a potential Rangers' goal was thwarted when it hit Mike Rupp's posterior as well.  So,  breaks are breaks, and both teams had their share.

After 114 minutes of playoff Hockey, games like this are only fun, and glorious, if you win.  And so, the Rangers have corrected a disappointing Game Two letdown in historic fashion.

On the road?  Triple over time?  Forty-nine Washington Capital shots on goal?  The only person who needed that goal more than Marian Gaborik was Henrik Lundqvist.  The King was a goalie possessed.  From the time he allowed John Carlson's goal midway through the second period until 14:41 of the third overtime period, our liege was insanely great.  All Hail the King!

Let's Go Rangers!


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