NHL Playoffs 2012: 5 Key Takeaways for the New York Rangers Following Game 1
Pretty darn good start, don't you think Ranger fans?
The Rangers jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two periods thanks to goals from Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Brian Boyle, eventually putting the game away on a third period Brad Richards marker.
While it wasn't the most gorgeous game of hockey ever played, Rangers coach John Tortorella ought to be very satisfied with his team's effort. From the performances of his goaltender and captain to the Rangers' mastery of the little things, Game 1 was all positive for the home side.
Here's a look at five key things the Rangers can take away from their game one victory:
The Rangers Have a Significant Advantage in Goal
In case it wasn't obvious before Game 1, Henrik Lundqvist proved he's the consistent, occasionally brilliant goaltender teams need to win the Stanley Cup.
Not to detract from Craig Anderson's effort, but Lundqvist simply outmatched him in the opening game.
The Senators peppered the Rangers' netminder with 32 shots. Lundqvist stopped 30 of them. Anderson, on the other hand, made 27 saves on 31 shots.
It's those little battles that determine playoff series.
It's not that Anderson played poorly—although he did look uncomfortable on Ryan Callahan's opening marker—it's that he lost the goalie battle to Lundqvist.
It's his uncanny ability to win that separates Lundqvist from his colleagues.
Because of Lundqvist's early stops on Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, he didn't need to make any big saves in the final minute of the third period.
The same cannot be said of Craig Anderson, who gave up the goal to Callahan and couldn't keep his team in the game until it was much too late.
It's a mismatch that everyone was aware of heading into the series. But for the Rangers and their fans, it's incredibly comforting to see it all go to plan.
Erik Karlsson Is Containable
The Rangers did an effective job in Game 1 of shutting down arguably the Senators' best player, Erik Karlsson.
The young defenseman was, as expected, targeted physically early on and Brian Boyle did an effective job of getting into Karlsson's head, drawing him into a roughing penalty towards the end of the first period.
Any Rangers fan would approve of trading Boyle for Karlsson even if it was just for two minutes.
If the Sens have any shot at upsetting the Rangers, they'll need Karlsson and Jason Spezza to produce offensively.
With that in mind, Game 1 was a clear success for the Rangers.
Karlsson, like most young, inexperienced players, is capable of being thrown off through relentless physical play and effective team defence.
The Rangers Do the Little Things Well
Shutting down Karlsson wasn't only done through physicality.
The Rangers did the little things perfectly in Game 1.
The Blueshirts were disciplined, allowing only three Ottawa power plays all game. Not to mention Ryan McDonagh's second period tripping call was absolutely atrocious.
Considering the Senators had the NHL's 11th-best power play and Karlsson had 28 power play points in the regular season, staying out of the box is even more crucial for the Rangers.
New York also blocked 20 shots in Game 1.
The Blueshirts—league leaders in blocked shots in the regular season—averaged 16 blocked shots per game. Clearly, the Rangers have made blocking shots an important part of their strategy heading into the postseason.
In a league where any team can beat another on any given night, it's the little things that win championships.
Ryan Callahan Is a Warrior
Some people in the hockey community were scratching their heads when the Rangers named Ryan Callahan their captain in September.
With his 2011-2012 campaign, Callahan silenced his doubters and, with his performance in Game 1 of the playoffs, shut them up for good.
Callahan is without a doubt the heart and soul of the Rangers' lineup.
With the game still up for grabs in the first period, the 190-pound Callahan fought off the 230-pound Filip Kuba to give the Rangers the opening goal.
On top of his goal, Callahan had a plus-one rating, seven hits, lead the Rangers' forwards in shorthanded ice time and total ice time.
And that's just what showed up on the stat sheet.
Callahan's intangibles have set him apart from every other captain in the NHL and he's not only an incredibly effective player but also a driven, inspiring leader.
The Rangers Don't Need to Be Perfect to Win
Game 1 was hardly the Rangers' best performance.
The team had a several defensive lapses where Ottawa had sustained pressure in the New York zone. That's to be expected considering the Rangers' blue line has no one over the age of 28.
New York also had trouble with their power play, failing to score on four opportunities.
However, as the saying goes, "great teams find a way to win even when they don't play their best."
It helps when you have dynamic offensive players like Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. The fact that the two big boys for the Rangers both scored is an excellent sign.
It was a textbook win for New York in that sense.
Lundqvist played solid and the team received goals from their top three scorers in Gaborik, Callahan and Richards.
The Rangers didn't play spectacular in Game 1 but still won comfortably.
That says it all, don't you think?
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