Thursday, April 16, 2015

Rangers down Penguins to take Playoff Opener

Boom!  That’s One!  The Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins last night and took a 1-0 lead in the first round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

If Hockey’s official Get-Go is 28 seconds in – then the Rangers led this one from the Get-Go as Derek Brassard buried a long rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury that had come rocketing off his pads from a Rick Nash laser shot.  It was almost like a pass off the Penguin goalie.  And just like that the Rangers lead 1-0, a lead they never relinquished.

And then – later in the first on the power play – the Captain Ryan McDonagh firing the puck from near the blue line – between the legs of a Penguin defender and on past a partially screened Fleury for the 2-0 lead.

In all we outplayed, out hustled, and outshot the Penguins 13-5 in the first.  And the 2-0 lead was all we would need.

Pittsburgh did mount more offence in the 2nd and 3rd but could only muster a single goal.  Blake Como walked in and beat Hank from point blank range in the 2nd.  But from there on the Rangers played enough defense to limit the Pens to 25 shots – with many of them from bad angles.

Hank didn’t have to be spectacular to win this one -  but he was sharp and easily played well enough to win.  His 0.960 save percentage got the job done against an admirable 0.947 save percentage by Fleury.  It was not our best hockey game – but good enough to win.  And we’ll take it.

One scary moment was Dan Girardi taking a puck to the jaw and having to leave the game.  Coach Vigneault said afterwards that Girardi was being treated by a dentist.  That sounds good – I think – hopefully meaning he did not break his jaw.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that the Rangers can function as front runners – handling Pittsburgh and the pressure of the President’s trophy to grab game one.

Assist “Sisters”:   Assists for Girardi, Zuccarello, Nash and (glad we got) Yandle. 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  YES!  The Rangers powerplay goal was the difference in the 2-1 game.  We stopped Pittsburgh on their lone powerplay and connected on 1 of our five chances.

Where Do We Stand?  The Standings are gone now – but we have 1 of the 16 wins we need to hoist the Stanley Cup.  We lead Pittsburgh 1-0.  A long way to go -  but we’ve done as well as we could have so far.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Saturday night we have game 2.

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