NYR v MTL Game 1 Analysis – Period By Period
I will be doing a period by period analysis of each playoff game through the Rangers playoffs, through the eyes of someone that has coached and played on an amateur level, and still coaches a 5 year old hockey lunatic.
The Bell Centre was rabid well before puck drop. The players are playing at a frenetic pace. The Canadiens are pushing the play, feeling the energy of the crowd. Both teams are playing with a precise attention to detail. The finishing off of every check is contagious for both teams. Tanner Glass on his first shift takes a couple of hits and then ends his shift by blasting Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry. The Rangers get the first power play of the game, as the Canadiens Brendan Gallagher takes the first of 3 Montreal offensive zone penalties. The Rangers power play is uneventful. In each period, the Habs gave the Rangers a power play caused by an offensive zone penalty. This big flaw that will certainly be addressed by their coaches. Almost at the mid-point of the first, off a face-off to the left of Carey Price, Tanner Glass hoisted a loose puck on his backhand, over the Montreal goalie, and under the crossbar. 1-0 Rangers.
The Glass goal inspires some ferocious hitting by his team. Dan Girardi clobbers Max Pacioretty at center ice. Pacioretty tries to pay Girardi back with a hit seconds later, but Girardi gets the better of another collision. Kreider gets in on the hit parade with a hard hitting shift minutes later. The Rangers take back to back penalties which led to some white knuckle moments. Henrik Lundqvist makes a huge save on Shea Weber’s blast through a partial screen, from just past the circle to his right. It is the first glimpse at how sharp, and on point, the King is on this evening, as he expertly shoots the rebound to the corner to his left. Nick Holden makes the first of two horrific defensive zone giveaways, which leads to some close in chances for the Canadiens. Montreal outshoots the Rangers 16-5.
The attention to detail is still omnipresent as the Rangers take over play. It is becoming clear there will be no odd man rushes tonight for either side. Defensemen are always back, in tandem. The forwards on both teams are religiously coming back hard to disrupt any chances on the rush. Carey Price makes a pair of solid stops on Mats Zuccarello. The Canadiens are stout in denying second chances, as the Rangers generate many shots from the point.
Holden shifts momentum back to the home team by making a high risk pass the gets intercepted by Alex Galchenyuk just inside the Rangers defensive zone. The gaffe leads to several big saves by Lundqvist and a Canadiens power play. Though the Rangers clear the puck, they aren’t able to change all of their forwards, and J.T. Miller gets penalized for sending a puck over the glass. Lundqvist is called upon to stop a one-timer by Pacioretty from the slot to the goalie’s right, that left the Canadiens captain looking to the rafters in frustration. Seconds later Lundqvist makes a 10-bell stop on a Shea Weber shot, that came off a magnificent cross-ice feed from Alex Radulov. The Rangers earn a 49 second 5 on 3 but do little with it, and take a 1-0 lead into the third. The Rangers grab a 13-9 shot advantage as both goalies are required to make better saves on better shots.
The Rangers come out playing smart, and to all Rangers fans delight, pushing the play rather than sitting back in a shell. Pucks that are making their way into the Rangers defensive zone aren’t there for very long, lessening Ranger fans anxiety. The play is moving along at a surprisingly crisp pace, with few faceoffs. The Canadiens do get a great chance in the first 5 minutes by Pacioretty, but Lundqvist stops it confidently, and the Rangers make sure there are no second chances. The Canadiens Arrturi Lehkonen gets a chance walking down the slot with some room, but Dan Girardi closes the gap and partially blocks his shot. The shot makes it to Lundqvist, with a dangerous change of speed, but the Blueshirts are again in position to get the puck out of the zone.
The Rangers get a late power play on the third offensive zone penalty by the Habs. I am surprised to see coach Alain Vigneault using just one defenseman for the first 90 seconds of the man advantage. The Rangers basically use the 2 minutes to kill off game time, rather than push for another goal. I think out loud how we could have used another goal because the door is now open for the referees to call a late penalty on New York.
The Rangers start icing the puck a bit to get out of danger, and it hits me that there have been so few icing calls all night on either side. That in itself speaks to the quality of hockey played this night. The Rangers battle on every faceoff is very impressive as they keep the puck on the wall, and then out of the zone, with no long set up time, for Montreal. The Rangers worked the puck off the wall to the right of Lundqvist, and Jesper Fast leads a pass to Michael Grabner down the right side. Grabner corrals the puck and fires home the back breaking empty netter. With 25 seconds left in the game, Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov speared Rick Nash, with a referee standing right between the two players, and got a 10-minute misconduct. No spearing major penalty? It was just as bad as the one Brad Marchand got suspended for last week.
The Rangers played with fantastic structure and found their goalie to be in his best form of the year. Rick Nash was phenomenal on the penalty kill and backchecking. Mats Zuccarello battled Gallagher all night and showed great spunk. Even guys not known for big hits, Brady Skjei and Mika Zibanajad, threw some thunderous checks. I am hoping as the series unfolds, we will see more offensive flair from all of the Rangers forwards. But they all battled and played a tremendous game to open the series.