Forget the odds, tonight the table is set for the Rangers to go up 2-0 on Montreal
Apparently, the only people who were surprised by the Rangers taking game one in Montreal were the sheep of the analytics community and their snake oil peddlers. Full disclosure, I had my concerns due the mediocre way they played down the stretch, but shocked or surprised…no.
The Hockey News said the Rangers were dead with Tanner Glass in the lineup…wrong!
People like Steven Burtch, an analytics writer for Sportsnet had the Rangers with only a 30% chance of getting out of the 1st round. Hockey News’ resident analytics guru, Dom Luszczyszyn averaged out the models of several colleagues to the tune of 40% first round survival. Now, they could end up being right, but I’m here to say otherwise.
Rested, Structured, and Motivated
The biggest concern coming into this series for me was after playing so-so hockey for over a month, could the Rangers turn it on? I got my answer with a rock-solid 2-0 win in game 1. It was a contest that saw a highly energetic team structured throughout, with a fine attention to detail in all three zones.
New York likely knew for weeks they were locked in the 7th spot and considered that moving up meant tougher matchups against the Metro division…they were just fine with where they were. That also allowed Alain Vigneault to rest players like Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, and others down the stretch.
In game one, players that missed time due to injury also shined like Dan Girardi who was an absolute beast at all ends of the ice. Henrik Lundqvist also looked rested and had as much hop in his step in the closing minutes as he did in the first. All in all, it was one of the finest performance this team has put together in months and it should give the Canadiens cause for panic.
Ultimately, this team had nothing left to prove in the regular season. The leadership group and the veterans have one goal in mind at that is to win 16 games in the playoffs. That’s it! They have the talent and the system to get it done. Add the ultimate motivation and the Rangers could just make a run to the Finals again.
Table Is Set To Take Game 2
Yesterday’s practice indicates the Rangers will go with the same lineup for game 2. Almost every Ranger earned that, even Nick Holden who had some tough moments with turnovers. Anyone remember the last time Holden played a playoff game? It was 2014 and he scored 3 goals and an assist in a 7 game series loss…so how about we give him another shot before we allow the analytics community to start crying for inept defenseman, Adam Clendening.
The Rangers need to play with the same discipline and structure they did in game one. However, the real difference maker tonight will be to take a queue from the success the 4th line had by playing a north/south style in the offensive zone.
Once again, the Blueshirts top offensive players refused to make the simple play and dump it in. Instead, I watched Mats Zuccarello continuously rubbed out along the boards trying to gain the zone. To make matters worse, when they did gain the zone they choose to stop at the circle, spin around and peel back. Why? This is the NHL playoffs where goals are more likely to be scored crashing the net. The 4th line dumped it in and watched Tanner Glass win almost every puck battle to generate offense. For the corsi lovers, the line led the team in that area.
Bottom line, the Rangers can win this game with a simple approach by their forwards. That and scoring a power play goal will help too.