STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Eastern Conference; Round One
Calling all Forwards ... That's One Win for Henrik ... You Owe Him.
As expected, Montreal tried imposing their physicality upon the Rangers. Artturi Lehkonen, Paul Byron, Steve Ott, and the rest of the Habs threw their bodies around quite liberally, out-hitting the Rangers for the game by a 53-45 margin. In turn, those hits created a lot of takeaways. Those takeaways in turn led to quality scoring chances.
That said, the Habs opened with a furious first period onslaught, peppering Henrik Lundqvist with 16 shots on goal. It was a very disconcerting first 20-minutes to say the least. But the Rangers responded with a strong second period, then put twice as many shots on goal in the third period than did Montreal. By game's end, each team finished with 31 shots on goal apiece.
It was clear to me, the Habs were targeting Mats Zuccarello. But to the Rangers credit, they leveled some big hits as well. Brady Skjei and Dan Girardi come to mind. And I also credit Alain Vigneault for starting Tanner Glass. I thought it was a smart move, if only because he added toughness.
As it turns out, Glass scored the only meaningful goal of the game on a great backhand shot off the face-off. Dare I say brilliant even ... because he didn't get cute and just put the damn puck on net!
Speaking of brilliant, Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves en route to recording his tenth career playoff shutout. And simply put, the Rangers do not escape the first period unscathed without his old school King-like performance. Throughout the game, and particularly during that first period, our liege made several outstanding saves in heavy traffic against second chance opportunities.
Montreal played an undisciplined game. After the Rangers withstood their best shot in the first session, the Habs clearly became frustrated. However, numerous and obvious Canadien infractions went uncalled. Lets see how the stripes potentially let this bleed into Game Two - or not.
But Montreal losing their cool didn't necessarily lead to Tanner Glass' goal. In fact, Glass only played eight even strength minutes all night thanks to four Rangers power plays and another six minutes spent on the penalty kill.
The Rangers went 0 for 4 on the PP by the way. But the fact Tanner Glass scored and some other forward didn't, makes me wonder...
- Five Rangers defensemen (Marc Staal, Brendan Smith, Ryan McDonagh, Nick Holden, Brady Skjei) together mustered 13 shots on goal.
- Now take away each of Rick Nash's and Mika Zibanejad's 3 SOG, and Michael Granber's shot on an empty net, and the rest of the Rangers forwards (Kevin Hayse, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, JT Miller, Derek Stepan, Jimmy Vesey, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast) only totaled nine shots on goal.
Just saying ...
The NHL's best road team this past season came through. For the moment, home ice advantage shifts into Rangers hands.
Well done boys.