Sunday, May 17, 2015

Rangers Jolt Bolts for 1-0 Series Lead

That’s nine playoff wins! 

Faced with the potential hazard of their first non-must-win game in a while – the Rangers played with the same toughness and resilience that got them here and beat the Tampa Bay Lightning by the familiar playoff score of 2-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.

After two straight series of tightly checked hockey – The Lightning – bless their hearts – think they are a speed team and have opened things up against the Rangers.  Tampa can score and they can skate – and their front 12 may be slightly better than ours – but our defenders and our goaltender are better than theirs and it showed up that way in game one.  In the first two periods the Rangers had the better chances – but could not capitalize until period two’s final minute.  And Lundqvist was again brilliant, stopping everything that came his way.

In a frenzied sequence in the offensive zone – Kreider came a way with the puck and fired it through traffic at Bishop.  The surprisingly large Tamps goaltender made the save but the rebound kicked out to the left where Derek Stepan – in a moment tremendously similar to the one that ended the prior series – found himself alone with the puck and smacked it through those oversized arms and legs and into the net. 

1-0 Rangers with 13 seconds on the clock.  And those late goals are tough ones on the opponent because in their heads they were already in the locker room in a 0-0 tie.

Now – did we do things the easy way and keep the lead?  Not the 2015 Rangers.  So 6 minutes into the third period the famous powerplay of the Tamp Bay Lightning – after some fancy passing - beat Lundqvist to tie the score at 1-1.

The Lightning had some chances in the third but the Ranger defense and Lundqvist stood tall.  (Ed -actually Bishop is much taller)  (Dave Pucks – I know – but that’s a figure of speech.  Like when they say a goalie stands on his head – they don’t mean it literally) (Ed – I always wondered about that.  I didn’t get why a headstand would help you stop the puck)

This of course sets the stage of the Rangers final dramatic triumph of the day.   With former Ranger Ryan Callahan captain defending – Ranger rookie Kevin Hayes moves the puck toward the left corner – but with his long arms delivered the puck hard to the crease where former Lightning player Dominic Moore was just arriving.   The puck slammed into Moore’s leg and past Bishop and as the MSG faithful roared their approval the Rangers had their 2-1 lead with 2:55 remaining. 

And that’s how it ended.  Hank saved .958 of the pucks that came his way – besting Bishops .933.  Rangers outshot Tampa Bay 30-24, limiting the Bolts to just 5 in the third period. 

The Rangers get a much better game 1 ending than their last series and can enjoy their first rest day with a series lead since Pittsburgh in round one. 
What Did We Learn?  That we won’t get swept in round 3

Uh, a little help?:   Assists for Hayes (that is an assist that is more responsible for the goal than Moore’s leg), Brassard, Kreider, and McDonagh.   

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Thankfully no!  Tampa bested us in this category – converting 1 of 4 while stopping us on both of our opportunities.  So like faceoffs (Ed - which we lost 30-23) or Nash goals (Ed - there were none) this stat matters unless it doesn’t matter at all. 

Where Do We Stand?  We lead round 3 1-0.  We have 9 of the 16 wins needed for the Stanley cup.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Monday we are home for game 2.

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Ovechkin scored on Saturday.  But it was in a different country for a different team and a different reason.  

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