NYR/PITT Recap: Lundqvist Steals The Show with a Vezina Performance, Fleury Almost As Good, PP Woes, Girardi, Around The League & More

Lundqvist outdueled Fleury for the win in Game 1

Welcome everyone to another blog here on DOINOW.com. As always, the right hand of the site is where you will find the archives, live tweets, search button and all that other good stuff. For your life tips of this blog, don’t drink & drive, tip your bartenders, don’t cough and fart at the same time, try the soup at the Bold O’Donoghues, and always and I mean ALWAYS, remember, “Sidney Crosby is a fucking bitch!”

After much anticipation, the playoffs started in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. The Rangers defeated their most recent rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-1, to take a 1-0 advantage in the best of 7 series.

For me, processing the game as a whole, this was a game where the better goaltender won. Henrik Lundqvist was absolutely amazing. Before you go nuts about me praising Lundqvist here, let’s make a few things clear. Who knows if Talbot does better for $8 million less? Bottom line, Hank is getting paid and he did what he was supposed to do at this time of year. He was, and pardon my Swedish, “FUCKING SPECTACULAR.”

The playoffs are the best time of the year in the NHL season. I’m not telling anything you didn’t know already. In this social media age, I thrive and live off this. Seeing pictures, videos, tweets, FB postings and feeling the excitement is grand. For my friends in real life, such as the infamous JEFFREY or even people I don’t know through the social media world, I love feeling the passion for this team with you guys. You don’t have this same feeling with the other sports.

 

Photo Credit: JEFFREY!

I’m on record already. Not only do I have the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup this year, I have them sweeping Pittsburgh. Bravado? Confidence? Arrogance? I don’t know, say what you want, but for me this season is CUP or BUST, and I truly believe in this team.

What really stood out about this victory tonight, is that the Rangers found another way to win a game, just like they did in the regular season. Sure, everything is beefed and amped up in the playoffs, but for the Rangers, they did what they’ve been doing all season to win this game. They got scoring when it mattered, then relied on superb goaltending to seal the deal.

We all know the story on Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury, who finished with 36 saves on 38 shots, played amazing after giving up the quick goal to Brassard on the rebound. Fleury is known for his playoff collapses, despite having a Cup to his name. We all remember that Islander series from two years ago.

Give credit where credit is due, Fleury is the only reason this score was close, on the Penguins side. Fleury made huge saves throughout the game, stopping Hagelin twice, stopping Nash on a breakaway, keeping a sure goal from McDonagh out of the net and so forth.

The reason we are not talking about Fleury adding another “W” to his resume is because of Henrik Lundqvist improving to 5-0 as a starting goalie, at home, during game 1’s. Lundqvist looked like that 2012 Vezina winner.  I’ll put the Talbot comparisons to bed for tonight, because I know you’re sick of hearing it and you know how I feel already. That said, Lundqvist did his job. When the defense broke down for the Rangers, Lundqvist was there to bail them out. Hank finished with 24 saves on 25 shots, but the difficulty of saves were at an extreme level. Simply put, without Hank’s performance tonight, the Rangers don’t win this game.

Fellow Long Islander, Joey T & the President’s Trophy

Before getting into the game recap, big props to the New York Rangers for rolling out Rangerstown/Rangers Hockey House again. I talked about it & posted pictures in several other blogs (check the archives) and it’s cool the Rangers do this. I know some of my friends can care less about that shit, but I love it. I enjoy the fan experience. I’m not above it. In my prior life, in wrestling, we call it “marking out.” Call me a “Ranger mark” all you want, because I love seeing the exhibits, meeting the ex-Rangers and taking in the spectacle of being a Rangers fan. I will always bitch and moan about ticket prices, and I think rightfully so, but it is nice the Rangers have this mini-museum, free of charge. Now, if anyone who has pull is reading this, please bring Richter there! Or for fuck sakes, bring Skapski!

The Brassman Collects!

Before you could get two gulps of beer down your gullet, Derick Brassard scored 28 seconds into the game, finding a Rick Nash rebound and slamming it past Fleury. 1-0 Rangers! The Garden was alive, with their light show and white towels. On an aside, the MSG network really needs to show the national anthem for these playoff games, especially if John Amirante is doing it.

Talk about a sigh of relief, and being able to sit back in your chair. Most of these playoff games, my stomach is rumbling and my ass is half off my couch/seat. With a quick 1-0 lead, you could relax a bit.

The Rangers were all over the Penguins in the first period. The Penguins were missing Letang and it showed. The Pittsburgh defense was having a hard time getting the puck out of their zone. Leave it to our Captain, the American, Ryan McDonagh, to score on a powerplay, off a one timer from Keith Yandle. For the Rangers, it would be the game winning goal and a huge insurance goal at the time. After two powerplays that didn’t convert, it was good to see the Rangers get a powerplay goal. The powerplay is the weak point in the Rangers team game, so it was good to see them get one here.

The bubble did burst on the Penguins tonight

After the Rangers put up a 2-0 lead, with 45 minutes of game time left, you thought the Rangers would roll. However, Fleury settled down after the quick Brassard goal. I wouldn’t blame him for a PP goal. Fleury came up big, time and time again, and after Comeau scored, six minutes into the second period, Fleury kept this a one goal game, at 2-1.

On the Comeau goal, it was more of the same for the Rangers. Either they start slow and come on strong, or start strong and make you shart the rest of the game. It was the latter tonight. However, it’s not to say the Rangers didn’t have their chances, Fleury came up big time and time again. What prevented Fleury from winning this game was Henrik Lundqvist.

The Comeau goal came after a Penguins rush and the Rangers failing to clear the puck or preventing shooting angles. Lundqvist made a few saves, but Comeau was able to find the net, after a four shot sequence, finding a goal on a rebound. No fault on Hank at all. Trust me, you know me here, I would say it was Hank’s fault if it was! It was kind of frustrating to see Dan Boyle just standing there, as Comeau scored.

On a side note, I was surprised with how much ice time the fourth line logged tonight. I know many Ranger fans hate Tanner Glass, but I thought he had one of his better games of the year.

Lundqvist, up to this point, was flawless. He saved many shots and when the pressure was tight, Hank was a brick wall. In fact, the Penguins who took 20 shots, compared to the Rangers 25 shots, in the second and third periods combined, had better looks than the Rangers. What can you say, Hank was in Vezina form.

WARRIOR

As I talked about in my preview blogs, McDonagh & Girardi came up huge. They shut down Crosby & Malkin once again, as the Rangers improved to 8-0-1 in their last 9 with Pittsburgh. The biggest scare of the game was Girardi taking a puck to the face. Early reports is that he will need some dental work, but be ok for game 2. Listen, Girardi is not a goal scorer or does anything sexy on the ice, but he’s a complete beast and a true warrior. DG is a man’s man.

While the Rangers did win this game 2-1, I wasn’t as confident leaving this game as I was going in. I still expect the Rangers to sweep, but I was expecting a different margin in goals, in game 1. The Rangers were 1-5 on the PP and while Fleury did his part, the Rangers must convert more often on the PP. Lundqvist helps them dearly, but at the same time, the Rangers shouldn’t be sweating out the clock in these games.

While Hayes & Hagelin may not appear on the stat sheet, both players had great games. Hagelin was amazing on the PK, and able to keep the puck out of the zone. Hayes played strong offensively. While Nash & Zucc didn’t score goals, they both assisted on goals. The Rangers will need Nash hot, especially in the later rounds, for the Rangers to achieve success.

No playoff win is easy. At the same time, and you can throw the one seed vs eight seed aside, and just look at the Rangers year vs the Penguins year, you need the Rangers to put these games to bed much earlier.

https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/588887170187919362/Nu9gFWZR_400x400.jpg
1 down, 15 to go

You know I hate copying & pasting, but for the playoffs, and because of this historic year, let’s look at the official NYR postgame notes, courtesy of BLUESHIRTSUNITED.com:

Team Notes
–        HOME SWEET HOME – The Rangers have won 17 of their last 26 playoff games at Madison Square Garden, dating back to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. Ottawa on Apr. 26, 2012. The Rangers have earned at least one win at home in 16 consecutive playoff series, dating back to the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2007.
–        ONE AND WON – The Blueshirts have posted a 29-11-1 record in Game 1s which they have played at home in franchise history. Entering the series, the Rangers have posted a 22-6 playoff series record when they have won Game 1 of a series at home.
–        FAST START – According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Derick Brassard’s goal at 0:28 of the first period was the second-fastest goal the Rangers have scored at the start of a playoff game in franchise history (Ed Hospodar tallied a goal at 0:27 of Game 2 of the Preliminary Round on Apr. 9, 1981 at Los Angeles).
–        FIRST IN SCORE – The Rangers outscored Pittsburgh, 2-0, in the first period. The Blueshirts led the NHL in first period goals (84) and first period goal differential (plus-30) in the first period during the regular season. New York posted a 41-6-3 record when tallying the first goal of the game during the regular season, and also posted a 29-2-3 record when leading after the first period.
–        FINISHING THE JOB – The Blueshirts have won 37 of 38 regular season and playoff games in which they have led after two periods this season.
–        POWER SURGE – New York was 1-for-5 (8:43) on the power play in the contest. The Rangers have registered a power play goal in each of their last two regular season and playoff games, in three of their last four contests, and in five of their last eight games. The Blueshirts outscored the Penguins, 1-0, on special teams in the contest. During the regular season, the Rangers posted a 17-1-1 record in games which they outscored their opponent on special teams.
 
Three Stars on Broadway
–        Derick Brassard tallied a goal, recorded five shots on goal, and led all Rangers with 12 faceoff wins in 15:45 of ice time. Brassard ranks sixth among NHL centers – and leads all Rangers – in playoff points (25) since the start of the 2013 playoffs. He has tallied a point in all five regular season and playoff games he has played against Pittsburgh this season (three goals, three assists in those contests). Brassard has recorded 10 points (six goals, four assists) in his last 13 playoff games, dating back to Game 5 of the Rangers’ second round series against Pittsburgh last season.
–        Ryan McDonagh tallied his first career playoff game-winning goal, recorded four shots on goal, was credited with three blocked shots, registered two hits, and posted a plus-one rating while skating in a team-high 25:36 of ice time. The Rangers captain has recorded 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in his last 16 playoff games, dating back to Game 4 of the Rangers’ second round series against Pittsburgh last season. McDonagh has registered nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his last nine regular season and playoff contests in 2014-15.
–        Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves to earn his 44th career playoff win. Lundqvist appeared in his 93rd career playoff game with the Rangers, tying Walt Tkaczuk for the most playoff appearances (among skaters and goalies) in franchise history. Lundqvist made his 92nd consecutive playoff start with the Rangers in the contest, dating back to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Apr. 26, 2006 vs. New Jersey. The Rangers’ all-time wins and shutouts leader is one of three goalies in NHL history who have made at least 90 consecutive playoff starts with one team (Martin Brodeur – New Jersey; Patrick Roy – Colorado). Lundqvist has won six of his last seven regular season and playoff appearances in 2014-15, posting a 1.85 GAA and a .937 SV% over the span. In the last five Game 1s he has played at Madison Square Garden, Lundqvist has posted a 5-0 record, along with a 1.00 GAA and a .955 SV% (106 saves on 111 shots).
 
Blueshirt Breakdown
–        Alain Vigneault earned his 51st career playoff win in the contest, tying former Rangers head coach and Hockey Hall of Famer Roger Neilson for 21st on the NHL’s all-time playoff wins list for coaches.
–        Rick Nash recorded an assist, registered four shots on goal, tied for the game-high with two takeaways, and was credited with two hits in 15:56 of ice time. Nash has registered a point in all five regular season and playoff games he has played against the Penguins in 2014-15, tallying eight points (four goals, four assists) in those contests.
–        Dan Girardi notched an assist, was credited with a game-high six blocked shots, recorded two hits, and posted a plus-one rating in 18:37 of ice time. With his assist, Girardi tied Reijo Ruotsalainen for seventh on the Rangers’ all-time playoff points list for defensemen (27). He is one assist away from tying Barry Beck and Sergei Zubov for fifth on the franchise’s all-time playoff assists list for defensemen The Rangers’ alternate captain became the second Rangers skater (forward or defenseman) who has played at least 90 career playoff games with the Blueshirts in franchise history.
–        Keith Yandle tallied a power play assist, recorded two shots on goal, registered two hits, and was credited with two blocked shots in 20:38 of ice time. Yandle has tallied 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in his last 13 regular season and playoff games. He has also recorded four power play assists/points over the span.
–        Mats Zuccarello recorded an assist and registered one shot on goal in 16:50 of ice time. He has tallied a point in four of five regular season and playoff games he has played against the Penguins in 2014-15 (one goal, three assists). Zuccarello has notched 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in his last 12 regular season and playoff games in 2014-15.
Like a Gremlin, Crosby turns more cunty if you spill water on him

A win is a win. One down, 15 to go. Coach AV preaches one game at a time, and supposedly “barking” too, according to the official Rangers T-Shirt. As fans, we all just want to play for the Cup already. However, the Rangers still need three more wins against the Pens to continue this journey.

Overall, I thought the Penguins played much better, mostly due to Fleury, than I expected. You know how tough I’ve been on Hank this year. I thought he looked like he was never hurt and on the top of his game. That’s what the Rangers pay him to be and he was that and more tonight.

For the Rangers, positive wise, you have to love the goaltending and defense. On the negative side, the Rangers got to capitalize on all these powerplays and not let teams hang with them. For as great as the Rangers played, they were one errant deflection away from going into overtime. The Rangers need to put the foot on the neck, so to speak, on these games.

 

Because It’s The Cup

A new feature for these Stanley Cup playoff blogs, let’s take a look at “AROUND THE LEAGUE”.

Isles vs Caps – Islanders looked great, I can’t believe how shoddy and flat Washington looked. NYR vs NYI would lead to a $834975480957489748907840975 ticket prices, but fuck it, it will be fun.

Habs vs Sens – Subban is not only a diver, but a dirty bitch. If he slashed Crosby like that, he would be suspended for the rest of the playoffs. I’m surprised how many goals were scored with Price & Hamburglar in net. I hope the Sens can pull it out.

Wings vs Bolts – TBL is a team I want no part of, as mentioned and talked about in my blog with Joe this week. The Wings goalie of the week came up huge. Eliminating the Bolts from the playoffs will be like Boston being eliminated last year, for the Rangers.

Hawks vs Preds – This is what the playoffs are all about. A double OT game, where the Hawks came back from 3-0 to win 4-3. Many people have NYR vs CHI in the Cup this year, not hard to fathom why.

Flames vs ‘Nucks – I expect Vancouver to win this series, but pardon the pun, the Flames are heating up at the right time. None of these teams scare me, Rangers-wise.

Jets/Ducks & Wild/Blues – both underdog teams were winning their respective games as I write these words. The path of least resistance, for the Rangers, is for the Jets & Wild to win these series. I don’t see it happening, but one can hope. Anything can happen in the Cup playoffs.


Ranger fans, take a deep breath. We are up 1-0 against a team that has given us fits in recent years. As much glee & joy that are pumping through our veins now, this game could’ve been a different story real quick. We’ll take the win, but one thing is for sure, these Ranger playoff games will cause agina.

I will be back Saturday night, hopefully, if all things work out, with a LIVE REPORT from MSG. I always try to catch one home game per series, and if I’m right, this will be the last home game of the series. Let’s hope I’m right.

CONGRATS RANGERS FANS!

LET’S GO RANGERS

ONE DOWN, 15 TO GO, EVERYONE WILL BE BLUESHIRT HOES!

WE WANT THE CUP

 

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on twitter

 

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