Friday, April 18, 2014

N.Y. Rangers: Blueshirts Draw First Blood



Rangers Lead Series 1-0
I - NYR 4; PHI 1

NEW YORK RANGERS: Blueshirts Take A Passive Aggressive Approach In Game One Victory Over Flyers.

The NHL's second most penalized team came into Madison Square Garden and behaved as expected.  They were typically undisciplined, and played with agendas instead of with skill.  They wasted no time in taking their obligatory first period run at Ryan McDonagh.  Later in the game, Adam Hall also took a run Derek Dorsett.

The Flyers put the Rangers on the power play six times Thursday night, and the Rangers made them pay on the penalty the Flyers perhaps intended least.  With the score tied at one in the third period, New York literally drew first blood, when Jason Akeson's high stick caught Carl Hagelin in the mouth.  Akeson was called for a double-minor, and the Rangers seized a 3-1 lead with a pair of goals on the ensuing power play.

But that didn't stop the Flyers.  Claude Giroux and troglodyte, Zack Rinaldo, kept Philadelphia's third period indiscretions skating along.  Both were whistled for respective slashing penalties, and before the night was through, Brayden Schenn was shown the box after administering a cross-check.

The Rangers were called for one infraction all game.  Of all people, little Mats Zuccarello was called for roughing in the second period.

Andrew McDonald got the Flyers on the board with the team's first shot on goal.  His slap shot from the high slot got deflected, and beat Henrik Lundqvist.  Immediately after the goal was scored, Ryan McDonagh applied a well deserved cross-check into the back of Claud Giroux.  That would be Philadelphia's last goal of the night.  They managed just 14 more shots on goal, and just one in the third period.

The Rangers tied the game at the 10:53 mark of the first on Mats Zuccarello's goal.  What you won't see in the box score however, is how Martin St. Louis battled in from of the net to make Zuccarello's goal possible.  Martin St. Louis also had two assists on the night.

In the second period, Brian Boyle had a brilliant chance in front of the net, but was thwarted by goalie Ray Emery.  Boyle had perhaps his best game in well over a month.  His problem is, he just can't finish.  He is a fine grunt though, and his line continues to grind out scoring opportunities.

It is quite possible, Thursday night was Brad Richards' finest game of the season, and maybe even his best as a member of the New York Rangers.  His go-ahead goal in the third period was clearly the turning point of the game.  He also was the primary assist on Derek Stepan's and Carl Hagelin's third period goals.  Brad totaled 6 SOG.

Rick Nash also assisted on Derek Stepan's goal, and led the Rangers with 7 shots on goal.  In all, the Rangers peppered Ray Emery with 36 shots on goal.

So, where do the Flyers go from here?  I certainly expect them to intensify goon tactics in Game Two.  However, continuing along that strategy may very well cost them dearly.  And, the reason is because, in watching Thursday's game, I do believe I saw another trick up Alain Vigneault's sleeve on the power play.  The Rangers unveiled some rather new moves, and looked exceptionally sharp.  Give the coach his props on that count.

Passive aggression might get the Rangers through these first two games at the Garden.  But when the series shifts to Philadelphia, and Flyers coach Craig Berube has the advantage of final line changes, the Flyers will be better able to isolate their targets, and goon it up.

If playoff hockey has taught us anything, it is that mistakes cost their respective teams plenty.  So far, Philly leads in that respect, while New York holds the advantage.

Smarter 1; Tougher 0.


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