Tex's Rangers Steal Home Ice Away From Penguins
Rangers Lead Series 1-0
I - NYR 3; PITT 2*
II - SUNDAY
III - PITT @ NYR
IV - PITT @ NYR
V - NYR @ PITT
VI - PITT @ NYR
VII - NYR @ PITT
New York Rangers
Blueshirts Land First Blow In Metropolitan Division Prize Fight
Coach Vigneault was able to negotiate his team through a physical series against Philadelphia. Among his adjustments, his timely implementation of Dan Carcillo was a key factor in the series. Now, I have to credit Coach and say, a touch of Vigneault could be the difference in getting the Rangers through Pittsburgh.
Vigneault vs. Tortorella
The Rangers proved long ago, they can take a punch. The criticisms levied against these new Rangers involved their inability, or willingness to punch back. Under Alain Vigneault, the Rangers have done things differently for sure. Where as I likened the Rangers under Tortorella to a big blue glacier grinding down teams in their path, who also many times settled things with their fists, Vigneault's team instead plays with a bit more refinement and polish, and above all, with shared responsibility.
The Rangers still continue to battle like heavyweights, just smarter under Vigneault. Pittsburgh is clearly a far less physically threatening opponent than Philadelphia, but they're obviously a very skilled, and perennial powerhouse nonetheless. That's where Vigneault comes in.
Under Torts, Benoit Pouliot would have never been on the ice to factor like he has. After a series of bad penalties against the Flyers (if not after his first stupid penalty) Pouliot would have been buried deep in the basement of Tortorella's dog house, and Derick Brassard would have probably been in the penalty box having earned five for fighting.
Under Torts, the 4th line would have been nothing but a pipe dream. Coach Vigneault deserves credit for not only creating a functioning four line system, but for assembling a 4th line that excels, and propels the Rangers. In fact, he also established order throughout the four lines. Under Torts, the top three forwards would have most likely been getting over-shifted. Mats Zuccarello, the team's leading regular season scorer, would probably still be suffering from un-favored status, while Brad Richards would still be clocking in 24 minutes a night.
All that said, the Rangers and Penguins exchanged hey-makers in the first two periods, before gaining a measure of respect for each other in the third. Then three minutes into the fourth round, Derick Brassard delivered Game One's knockout blow.
Benoit Pouliot and Brad Richards each notched their third goals of the playoffs. Derick Brassard's first of the playoffs was a winner, and a reward for his 8th straight game of hard work.
Henrik Lundqvist faced 9 more shots (36 to 27) than did Marc Andre Fleury, and forced the game into overtime with a brilliant third period save. But, as speculated, Fleury proved erratic between the pipes. Benoit Pouliot beat Pittsburgh's goalie like a rented mule on the game's opening score. Then on the second score, Fleury's defensemen abandoned their posts, forcing him to over play Brad Richard's goal. In overtime, Fleury actually got beat twice on the game's winning goal in overtime by both Pouliot and Brassard.
Sidney Crosby's post-season woes continue. He was held to three SOG, and was a -3 for the game.
James Neal and Chris Kuntitz earned a measure of Blueshirt attention however, with 5 and 7 SOG respectively. Rick Nash had 4 shots, and Derek Stepan had 5 shots for the Rangers.
For the new wave of Dan Carcillo fans, Coach Vigneault gave him 19 shifts in 10:00 minutes of ice time, all at even strength. But, Coach Vigneault has so far resisted trying Anton Stralman's shot on the PP.
Both teams were scoreless in four PP opportunities each, so credit the Rangers for pulling out Game One at even strength. The Rangers are now scoreless in their last 25 PP opportunities.
Although the Penguins had more SOG, the Rangers laid more hits and won more face-offs.
The Rangers obviously do not own home ice advantage as they did in Round One against the Flyers. On Friday however, they helped themselves immeasurably, but only if they capitalize on their 1-0 series lead. They need an even higher sense of awareness now, and attention to detail. I'm sure we all agree, the Rangers want the Penguins lingering around as little as possible.