National Hockey League
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Rangers defeat Penguins 4-1
I - NYR 2; PITT 1
II - PITT 4; NYR 3
III - NYR 2; PITT 1
IV - NYR 2; PITT 1 ot
V - NYR 2; PITT 1 ot
* * * ROUND TWO * * *
Eastern Conference Semi Finals
NEW YORK RANGERS
Madison Square Garden
33rd Street @ 8th Avenue
NEW YORK RANGERS: Blueshirts put Evgeny Malkin and Sidney Crosby on ice; eliminate Penguins in five.
Washington Capitals prevail over N.Y. Islanders in Game 7;
draw Blueshirts for 5th time in last 7 years.
Pittsburgh made the series much tougher than it looked in the boxscores. Even Marc Andre Fleury deserved more credit than received by this blog. However, when your top stars; Evgeny Malkin and Sidney Crosby; get shut down, the Penguins are sure to fail.
The Rangers did just that.
The Penguins tried thugging things up throughout the first four games of the series, and then needed to play it straight in Game 5 to no avail. Henrik, the Rangers defense, and team speed proved to be the difference makers.
The Rangers were 15 points better than the Pens in the regular season, and it showed - not because the Blueshirts were overwhelming; they weren't. The Rangers are still a team struggling to win games in 2-1 fashion and asking Henrik to stand on his head all these years later. This series was no different. All four Rangers victories over Pittsburgh; home or away; ended in 2-1 finals, with the last two games going into overtime.
That's something very familiar to Rangers fans. However, the Rangers managed to dispatch the Penguins in a quick efficient manner - something they could never afford themselves in recent playoff history.
* * * *
Derek Stepan opened the scoring in Game 5 with a 1st period power play goal - the Rangers third pp goal of the series. They finished 3 for 20 in five games.
After PITT tied the game in the 2nd period, the teams skated to a scoreless duel in the 3rd - then into overtime they went for the second straight game.
In Game 4, the big rookie, Kevin Hayes scored at 3:14 of overtime to give the Rangers a 3-1 stranglehold on the series.
In Game 5, Carl Hagelin's burst of speed and game winning goal midway through overtime put Pittsburgh in the Rangers' tail lights.
Oh no! Not You Again?
This will be the 5th post-season encounter between the Rangers and Capitals in the last 7 years.
2009 - Capitals win series 4-3
2011 - Capitals win series 4-1
2012 - Rangers win series 4-3
2013 - Rangers win series 4-3
2014 - ?
The Rangers also dispatched the Capitals in 5 games back in 1994 on their way towards hoisting the Stanley Cup.
The last time the Capitals defeated the Rangers prior to the Cup was in 1991, four games to two.
Front and Center
Unlike the Penguins, what the first round demonstrated is that both Washington and New York can win despite considerably diminished output from Alex Ovechkin and Rick Nash, respectively.
Alex was limited by the Isles to a pair of goals and 3 assists over their 7 game series. For the Rangers, Rick Nash scored a single goal, and had 4 assists in 5 games. That's difficult for either fan base to digest, and perhaps the subject of my next post.....
Both team's top performers in the first round instead played up the middle. In 7 games against the Islanders, center Niklas Backstrom registered a team leading 6 points; 3 goals and 3 assists; while centerman Evgeny Kuznetsov had 3 goals and 4 points. At center for the Rangers, Derick Brassard scored a team leading 3 goals against the Pens in five games, while centerman Derek Stepan scored a pair and had an assist.
Life Without a Net
Henrik Lundqvist is fresh, having started only 43 games (46 games) this season. Braden Holtby, on the other hand, played in an NHL leading 73 games, and made 71 starts in the regular season. It makes sense then, that he led the league with 4,247 minutes.
According to (someone..) NHL Network, goalies who play more than 60 games in the regular season most often fall short of a Stanley Cup.