The Rangers were able to gut out a 3-0 win today against the New Jersey Devils to take a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final. The Blueshirts won despite 40 minutes of sub-par play, due to the absolute brilliance of Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 36 saves. In a weird way, this game almost mirrored Game 1 in every way. A less than spectacular performance through two periods while keeping the game scoreless, followed by a Dan Girardi goal early in third, Chris Kreider giving the Rangers some breathing room and an empty netter. Let’s break this bad boy down…
- After Marian Gaborik drew a hooking penalty on Bryce Salvador early in the third, the power play went to work. There really isn’t much to break down on this one. Brad Richards won the draw in the offensive zone and Girardi slid into the slot to retrieve the puck and fired a laser past Marty Brodeur. There was very little traffic in front, Girardi just beat Marty clean for a much needed goal after the way the team played for the first two periods.
- John Mitchell started this play off with a fantastic, hard-working shift. He was able to get the puck deep into the offensive zone and try to kick-start the cycle. Cally got the puck around the boards up to McDonagh at the point, and McD fired on shot towards the net. Chris Kreider was in perfect position for a nice little deflection past Brodeur to widen the gap just a bit. With the way Lundqvist was playing, it seemed like the nail in the coffin for New Jersey.
- This play was all Ryan Callahan. With Brodeur on the bench for the extra attacker, the Devils began to apply some pressure. Cally laid down to block a shot from the point, and Brian Boyle went to work along the wall at the top of the Rangers d-zone. Boyle was able to work the puck across the red line and attempted a shot on goal that just missed the net. Cally followed the play up the whole way, and was able to tap the rebound off the back boards into the empty net. Well deserved goal for The Captain.
It seems like something of a disservice to break down all the goals without really getting into the biggest factor in this game, which was The King. He made several huge saves on Kovalchuk and Parise, especially early on, and gave the Rangers a chance when they were on the ropes during this game.
The breakaway save he had on Kovy in the first period stands out in my mind. There are very few players blessed with the hands and release of Kovalchuk, and he always seems to find a way behind the defense. Although this save wasn’t in the usual Henrik mold of solid positioning and elite lateral movement, he battled and found a way to make a save when his team needed it most. Absolute stud out there in his second shutout of the series.
- Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi were in full on beast most this afternoon. Blocking shots and making smart plays to keep the pressure on in the offensive zone were just the tip of the iceberg for the Rangers’ top pair.
- Great time out by Torts in the second period. They were running around in their own zone and were unable to sustain any pressure either in transition or on the forecheck. Terrific decision to settle the boys down.
- Brandon Prust likely has a date with Shanahan after his elbow to the head of Anton Volchenkov. The loss of Prust wont necessarily be felt immediately in the lineup, but it would definitely test the depth up front.
- Lost in The King’s shadow is the quietly solid game played by Marty Brodeur. He is really turning back the clock in this series and has continued the trend of strong goaltending from the Rangers’ opponents so far in the playoffs. (If they move on, this is a trend that doesn’t appear to be changing).
- John Mitchell only played 8 minutes in this one, but made them count. Very strong game.
- Marian Gaborik was much better along the walls in this one. He’s still not doing enough, given his role on this team, but much improved over Game 2.
- Chris Kreider has been a huge difference maker so far in this series. I think this one may have been his best all around performance so far.
- Blocked shots were again a huge factor, with the Rangers edging the Devils 19-6 in that department.
- Loved Marty’s post game comments about how Rangers fans were in the building because “they have the money” and they were sitting right behind the Devil’s bench. Can’t tell who exactly he was trying to be offensive to, but it amused me.
Off tomorrow before Game 4 on Monday night at The Rock. Coverage starts at 8pm, when the Rangers try for their first 2 game lead of the playoffs. Hopefully, they can get it, so I can drink just a little less during the games going forward.