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NHL Playoffs 2012: 5 Ways the Rangers Impressed in Their Win over the Devils

Brad KurtzbergContributor IMay 15, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: 5 Ways the Rangers Impressed in Their Win over the Devils

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    The New York Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference final with a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

    The game was closer than the score indicated, as the Devils dominated parts of the second period and the two teams were still scoreless after 40 minutes.

    While it's only one game, here are five ways the Rangers impressed in their win over the Devils.

Henrik Lundqvist Remains at the Top of His Game

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    Throughout the season, there was little doubt as to who the Rangers best player was: goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

    "The King" has continued his outstanding play during the postseason, and there is no way the Blueshirts would be in the Conference final without the play of their 30-year-old Swedish goalie.

    In Game 1 against the Devils, Lundqvist made just 21 saves to earn the shutout, but it was the quality and timeliness of those saves that was more important to the Rangers than the total.

    New Jersey dominated most of the second period and had several quality scoring chances in the first 40 minutes of the game, but Lundqvist kept them off the board. The most dramatic sequence was a series of three quick saves off of Devils' winger Zach Parise from point blank range that required quick reflexes by Lundqvist.

    He was equal to the task.

    For a low-scoring team like the Rangers, scoring first is critical. Lundqvist's strong play kept his club in the game until they could take control of the tempo in the third period.

The Rangers Played Well in Their Own Zone

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    One thing the Rangers did effectively throughout the season was block shots. Coach John Tortorella preaches a game of sacrifice, and forwards and defensemen alike are required to do all they can to prevent the opposition from getting quality scoring chances on the Rangers goal.

    In Game 1 against New Jersey, the Rangers blocked a total of 26 shots—more than the 21 shots on goal the Devils accumulated during the course of the game.

    Eleven different Rangers blocked at least one shot in the game, led by Ryan Callahan and Marc Staal, who had five each.

    If the Rangers keep blocking shots at this rate, they stand a very good chance of limiting the Devils goal total and winning more hockey games.

The Rangers Defensemen Contributed on Both Ends of the Ice

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    The Rangers defense outplayed the Devils defense in Game 1 on both sides of the ice.

    Dan Girardi scored the game winning goal and added an assist while Michael Del Zotto assisted on Girardi's tally.

    On the defensive side, Ryan McDonagh raced back to prevent two potential breakaways in the first period that could have been big momentum changers had the Devils scored.

    All of the Rangers defensemen contributed to this win. Even the third pair of Anton Stralman and Stu Bickel saw more ice time than usual and played well when they were in the game.

    This was a strong overall game for the Rangers blueline. Unless the Devils can limit the effectiveness of the Rangers defensemen, this could be a short series.

The Rangers Got Secondary Scoring

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    Over the course of the series, the Rangers will need their top scorers like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards.

    But in the playoffs, teams usually concentrate on bottling up the opposition's top weapons and secondary scoring becomes more important.

    In Game 1, the Rangers got scoring from secondary sources. Defenseman Dan Girardi, rookie Chris Kreider and Artem Anisimov scored the Rangers three goals.

    If the Rangers can continue to get offensive production from players who are not on their top line, it makes life that much tougher on New Jersey's defensemen and Martin Brodeur.

The Rangers Stayed Inside the Head of Martin Brodeur

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    Yes, Martin Brodeur is 40 and a future Hall of Famer. He also holds numerous all-time NHL goaltending records. But he is also human.

    Throughout his illustrious career, the Rangers have given Brodeur problems. In fact, entering the Eastern Conference final, Henrik Lundqvist has an impressive 23-6-5 career record in head-to-head games against Brodeur.

    If New Jersey won Game 1, then Brodeur's past record against Lundqvist is practically forgotten. But by beating Brodeur in Game 1, it further reinforced this issue in Brodeur's mind. If the Rangers go up 2-0 in the series, the seeds of doubt may grow just a little bit more.

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