1) I don’t know why I always feel this way, maybe because I’ve seen so many series go this way, but I still expect it to be 1-1 after two games.
2) Game 1 probably didn’t seem as close as it really was, but it was. The Capitals didn’t get a lot of chances, but we saw what they can do with their chances on the goal they got, and the pipes they hit, and some of the saves Henrik Lundqvist had to make. It was yet another game — what is that, seven in a row for the Rangers? — that could have gone either way. I think the Rangers were the better team, but not by a landslide, and the Capitals sure didn’t give them much, either.
3) Chris Kreider. You hate to make a judgement after so few minutes in so few games, but man does this kid look like the deal. And you know that when John Tortorella talks about how he’s earned his ice time, as every player on his team must, it sure makes you believe the coach thinks he’s the deal, too. Has shown some physical play, some lights-out speed, some touch in close, some savvy along the wall, some defensive responsibility, some ability to pass, some nose for pucks near the net, some good hockey instincts and now two different shots — wrister and slapper. Both for GWGs in the last three games. Wow. Didn’t look too bad with the hat, either. Does anybody still think Glen Sather should have included him (and other top young players and a No. 1 pick) in the offer for Rick Nash? (ps, another pretty cool pass from Derek Stepan on this GWG.)
4) It was pretty clever of the crowd doing the 8:08 countdown and Ovechkin chant like the Alfredsson chant. Also thought this crowd, even though it was quiet at times, really understood what was going on. I mean, they cheered broken-up passes, good forechecks, clears, penalty kills … a lot of subtle stuff. Like the old days.
5) Sometimes when I see him carry the puck, pass it, shoot it, I think that Marc Staal would be a really good forward. And, seriously, I don’t mean he’s not good on D. I just think his puck skills are underrated. And that maybe Tortorella’s right. Maybe he will add more offense to his game. He’s been good in a bunch of games in a row now.
6) Which brings us to the No. 1 pair, of which Staal was a member pre-concussion. Yes, Dan Girardi got trapped late in the period for the 1-1 goal with 3.5 seconds left, and that shouldn’t happen. I’m not sure what else occurred on that play. Nevertheless, Girardi was a beast again, and Ryan McMonster was amazing. How about the play where he pick-pocketed Alexander Ovechkin and drew the penalty. Not much better than that. Made some really good plays in the offensive zone, too.
7) Dale Hunter’s team plays more boring hockey than the Rangers, for those who think the Rangers are boring (if you’re bored by winning). A lot different than the Capitals teams we’ve seen in playoffs past. That said, I’m not sure the Capitals can outplay the Rangers at the Rangers’ game for seven games. I just don’t know if they get the same buy-in up and down the lineup. And I think that tilts even more toward the Rangers if Brian Boyle and/or Brandon Dubinsky get back into the lineup
8) Speaking of Hunter, did Brooks Laich’s late cheapshot from behind on Brad Richards after Richards scored the clinching goal remind you just a little bit of Hunter’s all-time cheapshot on Pierre Turgeon?
9) Richards was really strong again. Gotta say, the guy is clutch (almost hate to use that word for obvious reasons).
10) Speaking of reminding, and I know we discussed this yesterday, how about Artem Anisimov scoring that wraparound, which was nearly identical to the Stephane Matteau goal, moments after they showed Matteau, flashing his ring, on the big board? And don’t forget, Anisimov was in that spot only because Boyle and Dubinsky were out. Just as Ruslan Fedotenko might have been on that 5-on-3 kill because Boyle and Dubinsky were out.
11) The Rangers, to me, are so good 4-on-4 and so bad sometimes 5-on-4. Maybe they should just leave a player in the defensive zone to retrieve it when the penalty killers clear it and play 4-on-4 in the offensive zone. OK, that’s silly. But I still don’t get how they plan to have four guys above the circles sometimes on the power play. Or even three. The really good PPs in the NHL don’t do that.
12) I’m sure Capitals fans are ready to go into panic mode on Braden Holtby, who gave up some questionable goals while making 11 saves. He wasn’t terrible, and he could easily be very good in Game 2 and beyond. But now that Michael Neuvirth is healthy enough to be the backup, the controversy would be natural. And if Holtby does get knocked out, I’m not sure that benefits the Rangers, who went from Jose Theodore to Semyon Varlamov in ’09 and lost, then to Neuvirth in ’11 and lost.
13) Ryan Callahan, still playing with a bad hand/finger (probably a break) looked like he was playing Bugs Bunny hockey in the first period. Like there were three or four Callahans out there at a time.
14) Even with Laich, one of the really good faceoff men in the league on one side, and no Boyle or Dubinsky on the other, the Rangers were 26-24 on draws. Go figure.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Chris Kreider.
2) Ruslan Fedotenko.
3) Ryan McDonagh.
Sioux-per-man’s Three Rangers Stars:
1) Chris Kreider.
2) Brad Richards.
3) Artem Anisimov.
AP photos, above.
Here is the sidebar on McDonagh and Girardi, by Josh Thomson, 26.