For the 4th straight playoff series, the New York Rangers find themselves up 2-0 after a close 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals. Last night’s win was thanks to three special teams goals, including a shorthanded tally by K’Andre Miller that proved to be the game winner. The powerplay contributed the other two special teams goals.

It’s no secret that special teams are a large reason the Rangers are a great offensive team. With so much talent, they smother teams on the power play and are relentless on the penalty kill. Though the Caps scored twice on the powerplay, they really only seemed to threaten the Rangers at the very beginning of the game and the final 2 minutes.

Ice time was all over the place last night, courtesy of some of the worst officiating we’ve seen in a playoff game. Two guys who received more time than usual were Braden Schneider and K’Andre Miller, and they were big in the win. They’ve been a great pair since being reunited to close out the season, and they’ve certainly earned the ice time nad tougher minutes.

Miller will get the credit with his shorty and more of his plays that wind up being a focal point on the broadcast. Schneider is the perfect complement on this duo, making a dozen smart plays with the puck without trying to do too much away from it. The confidence Schneider has playing as a top 4 defenseman is really showing, and it’s massive for the depth of this team that all the pairings gel at this time of year.

The Rangers appear to be built for the playoffs, and have shown a fight in them we didn’t see last season. The Capitals scored first and, minutes later, the Rangers responded and never let the Caps retake the lead. That’s winning mentality, not getting shaken up by getting scored on first. They dug in, took control of the game with their special teams, and got the win.

Chris Kreider gets a lot of credit for his playoff play, but another 16-game player is Mika Zibanejad. He had a bit of an offensively lackluster season, mostly because he was playing a shutdown role until the trade deadline, and he has shined in this series. He was the Rangers best player by a landslide last night.

Zibanejad led the team in shots on goal, netting a powerplay goal and a shorthanded assist in the process. It looked like a vintage Mika game. Zibanejad is one of the Rangers’ top two-way forwards, and it looks like he’s finally re-adding that offense at 5v5 back to his game. He was miserable in the playoffs last season and his redemption tour is just getting started.

Another forward looking for redemption is Alexis Lafrenière after a brutal showing in the 2023 playoffs. He has 3 points in the first 2 playoff games and is looking more and more like that #1 overall pick. He is such a different hockey player this season, from start to finish. His linemates are a contributor, but if you think he’s just a passenger, you’re wrong.

With the next few days off, it will be interesting to see how the momentum shifts in a pivotal Game 3. The Rangers can again go for the throat and put the Caps on the brink. They clearly have the edge over an inferior team, but desperate teams do crazy things, and the Rangers haven’t had much luck up 2-0 in playoff series in the last few years. With a different coaching staff and a mentality shift from those seasons, that may be a thing of the past.


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