Wednesday, May 15, 2013

N.Y. Rangers: All The King's Horses And Men Show Up In Game Seven


2012 - 2013
National Hockey League Playoffs 
Quarter Finals

I - WAS 3; NYR 1
II - WAS 1: NYR 0*
III - NYR 4; WAS 3
IV - NYR 4; WAS 3
V - WAS 2; NYR 1*
VI - NYR 1; WAS 0
VII - NYR 5; WAS 0

New York Rangers Advance To Eastern Conference Semi-Finals

NEW YORK RANGERS - Blueshirt Rising.  Team Goes From Eighth Seed, To Sixth Seed On Last Day Of Season, To Defeating The Three Seed.


At some point in the series, Henrik needed to steal a game for his mates.  While I hoped Henrik's larceny would come on the road in Game Five, Lundqvist waited until the team faced elimination in Game Six at home.  Part of the delay was Henrik's own doing - letting two soft goals get through Friday night.  Otherwise, most of the blame fell on an obnoxious lack of offensive scoring on the road.

There is no secret, that within Henrik Lundqvist's ability to stop pucks, lies the Rangers best chance to win the Stanley Cup.  Games five and six proved time was of the essence.  In the not so distant past, there once was a day when Henrik Lundqvist would have already stolen two games.  Henrik Lundqvist turned thirty-one years old this past March - still technically in his prime.  Although, his joints and cartilages might intimate they feel slightly older than that.  Just keep in mind, time stands still for no one, and the years spent carrying this team on his back are perhaps taking their toll.

Hank made twenty-nine saves Sunday.  The Rangers desperately and literally needed every one to stave off elimination.  With the series tied, the teams headed back to Washington for Game Seven - an offensive house of horrors.  In a number of ways, and for a few years now, Henrik and the Rangers had been there before.  But even today I ask, how many more times can The King successfully defend the crease without the support of his horses and men?

In Game Seven, Arron Asham answered right away.  There are several items of note regarding Asham's opening goal.  Thirteen minutes into the first period, Coach Torts was using his forth line.  The shot itself, came A) - off the high right wing, and B) - it was a quick decisive shot - no second guessing.  Washington took aim at Henrik Lundqvist with thirteen shots in the first period.  The Rangers had nine.

The Rangers did an excellent job softening up Braden Holtby during games three and four at the Garden.  Quickly into the second period, the Rangers landed a stiff left jab and a straight right.  Taylor Pyatt scored 3:24 into the second, off beautiful feeds from Dorsett and Eminger.  Two minutes later, Michael Del Zotto scored again from Brassard and Nash.  Yet, Washington pressed Lundqvist with another thirteen shots, while the Rangers had eight.  But the Capitals knew they were effectively done, right then.

New York went on to dictate the third period, closing out the series on a very strong note.  Ryan Callahan punctuated the night when he picked off a neutral zone pass, and scored unassisted at just 0:13 of the final period.  At 6:39, Matts Zuccarello sent the Washington fans scurrying for the exits.  The Capitals season was over.  For many of the Rangers newer players however, life had just begun.

Henrik stopped thirty-five shots without allowing a goal - his second consecutive shutout victory over the Caps.  He didn't need to steal this game.  Game Seven was safely in hand after Asham's goal in the first.  That's all the King needed from his horses and men.  After all, Lundqvist is still in his prime.

His horses and men were tough, not the way they used to be, like fighting tough.  They were resilient tough, and 'laid the body' tough.  They took big hits as well, ask Ryan McDonagh, but kept playing, and continued keeping the Capitals scoreless over the final two games.  In also keeping the Tasmanian  Ovechkin off the scoreboard with superlative defense, the Rangers blue liners contributed mightily to the offensive effort as well.

Even Coach's biggest detractors must give Torts his due.  Over the course of the series, he relented on his mandate to keep the puck low, and allowed offense to flow from the circles and above the dots.  Good passing should be complimented as well.  And Torts additionally gave his third and fourth lines quality minutes.  They rewarded him with a pair of goals, one from each line.  And wouldn't you know, Chris Kreider assisted on Arron Asham's first period goal while playing on the fourth line.  The goal started the Rangers off right.

Last season, the Rangers made it to the Eastern Conference finals without the services of Rick Nash.  So far this season, the Blueshirts have won a first round series without the services of Rick Nash.  Much has been made of the way the Rangers shut down Alex Ovechkin.  Then what do we make of Rick Nash?  He was off to a roaring start in Game One despite the Rangers loss, taking eight shots.  When compared with the contribution of his mates, Nash virtually disappeared afterwards.  He assisted on a goal in Game Four, then a second time in Game Seven.  Otherwise, between Games Two and Seven, he took just 3, 4, 2, 2, 1, and 2 shots on goal respectively.  That's twenty-two empty shots on goal.  Luckily for the Rangers, Derick Brassard decided he was going to be a leading forward, while taking half as many shots on goal.  The new Rangers center had eleven SOG for the series,  scored two goals and assisted on six others.


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