One win in game one over the Philadelphia Flyers was impressive but not for the reasons that you saw hyped by the various talking heads on the tube. For all of Alain Vigneault's offensive minded attack there were two huge keys to the Rangers win.
The first was the Ranger's defense limiting the Flyers to just 15 total shots on goal against Henrik Lundqvist as the swarming defense that the Rangers were playing totally bottled up the Flyers at center ice and made it almost impossible for the Flyers to get any kind of offensive flow going.
You might not like reading this but there was some John Tortorella defense being played by the Rangers. The Rangers were out there blocking shots just like they have done in years past with the biggest difference being that they were not living and dying by it as they did in year's past.
Marc Staal had 4 block shots and Derek Stepan had 3 to lead the Rangers.
The second was the Ranger's playing with a major effort to maintain discipline and composure which was rewarded by the Flyers getting just one power play for the entire game. The Flyers count on their power play as witnessed by the 58 power play goals scored during the regular season (they scored a total of 233 goals).
You are talking about taking away 25% of the Flyer's offense and give the Rangers some very high marks for not responding to repeated attempts by the Flyers to goad the Rangers into taking penalties. As you saw late in the game, it was the Flyers who were the ones who were losing their composure and if I am Alain Vigneault that is what I am going to keep reminding the players of.
But there were a couple of areas that can't be ignored if the Rangers are serious about advancing out of the first round. The first one has to be the number of giveaways as the Rangers had 16 of them to the Flyer's 4. Most of those giveaways were blind passes into the center of the zones and that is begging for trouble.
Hopefully it was just first game jitters as the majority of the giveaways took place in the first and second periods. Still giveaways are how teams wind up with odd man rushes as well as power plays so the Rangers need to cut this number drastically for the rest of the series.
The other area of concern was the number of passengers that the Rangers had out on the ice for this game. It's the playoffs boys and it is time for everyone to get involved in the action. The Rangers will not win this or any other series if they are only getting contributions from two lines.
The scoresheet says that Rick Nash had seven shots but at least five of those shots were harmless shots from long distance. It is way past time for Rick Nash to to start being a leader on the ice as he doesn't have the excuse of not having talent surrounding him as he did in Columbus. The Rangers need Nash to step up and take control of games.
Anton Stralman was another who I was wondering where his head was at as he led the Rangers with 3 giveaways and it was almost looking like he was "playing scared." If you don't know what "playing scared" means; it is you are playing so hard trying not to make mistakes that you wind up making more of them. You can't have that especially from a defensemen who plays 21 minutes a night.
Brian Boyle is playing for his next contract and if he keeps throwing the puck blindly into the middle of the ice, he will get that contract from another team. Boyle at 6'7 has to step himself up as he knows that he is slow on the skates so he can't be turning the puck over in situations where he won't be able to get back on defense.
My Player of the Game
He didn't get any credit for an assist on the Ranger's first goal but Derek Brassard was a textbook clinic on how to play in the offensive zone crease. Brassard had Ray Emery bouncing around trying to look for the puck because he couldn't see it thanks to that big body of Brassard's. Because of Brassard's "Adam Graves imitation", the Rangers had that much more space to work with because Brassard was tying up the Flyer defense and they couldn't move him out.
Maybe Brassard can give Rick Nash a few pointers on how to do that.
Still the Rangers got the power play to work in a crucial point of the game as if they had not scored even one goal during Jason Akeson's double minor then this game had all the signs of the Flyers stealing it. Instead the Rangers held home ice with the 4-1 win and come Sunday need to play game two as if they had lost game one.
Send this series back to Philadelphia with the Flyer's thinking that they can't win in New York.
Those of you who have known me over the years know about my wife's pizza and the superstitous belief I have that the Rangers don't lose big games when she makes me one. Don't believe me? All I know is the moment the oven timer went off saying the pie was ready was when Richards scored.
Derek Stephan scored as I took my first bite and Carl Hagelin scored when I went back for seconds. I only ask her for a pie when it is a big game and over the years her pizza has very rarely ever failed me.
Sorry she won't make me 16 pizzas but I am sure if it is a big game I will get one.
In the meantime there will be no chicken served in my house during game days and while I pray my doctor doesn't find out, my diet will be hot dogs or kosher salami sandwiches during afternoon games and BBQ steak for away games.
What are are your superstitions when it comes to Ranger's hockey? Let's get a thread going here or on Facebook.