In case you missed it overnight, click here for the entire second-round playoff schedule.
I will post the links to Josh Thomson, 26’s game story and my notebook from Game 7 later.
Don’t know if anybody went back and checked the first-round predictions contest results yet. I will get to that … eventually.
1) As I wrote in the column, maybe you wonder what’s missing from this core group that’s been together three years now, that they can’t win games that aren’t Must-Wins. But, boy, you wonder how they can keep going to the well and winning when they’re facing elimination (7-2 now, with four straight Game 7 wins).
2) The schedule. It is just absolutely ridiculous, absurd, that the Rangers are going to have played six playoff games in nine days. Thanks NBC and Madison Square Garden and whatever sponsor’s name is on that Pittsburgh arena for the time being. Billy Joel and the Liberty at the Garden are more than partially responsible for this mess. And ya boys are partly responsible, too, for not closing out the Flyers earlier.
3) I honestly don’t give the Rangers much of a chance to beat the Penguins. Not unless Marc-Andre Fleury really implodes. And that certainly could happen. But the way the Rangers played in three of the games against the Flyers, they will be destroyed by the Penguins. Pittsburgh’s forwards and defense are miles better than the Flyers, and the Penguins are just as rough and rugged, maybe more so. I don’t see which Rangers forwards are gonna be able to tangle with Crosby and Malkin, not to mention Neal and Kunitz and Sutter (is he healthy?). But that’s for later on today and tomorrow.
4) Making the playoffs eight of nine years. Playing seven playoff rounds in three years. It ain’t the Stanley Cup, not even close, but there aren’t many teams or fanbases that wouldn’t trade places with you guys. Those great, loud fans in San Jose sure would today.
5) Daily Nash-O-Meter. Again, this is what infuriates fans about this guy. So freakin’ gifted. Such a dominant figure …. when he wants to be. Don’t anybody dare say Nash didn’t playing his hind quarters off in this game. He sure did. He had three very big hits. He made sensational defensive plays. He was dangerous all over the ice. I don’t care that he didn’t score. But he needs to play like that a lot more often. The top stars in the league do. He doesn’t. We saw it from him in Columbus one night. We saw it from him before the Olympics and for a while after. We saw it on that last shift of the Game 4 loss in Philly, when he did jack the first 58 minutes. Again, I thought Nash was better for some of this series, especially early, and then in Game 5, than most of you did. He didn’t score a goal, and that’s a major problem. But to me, it’s the dearth of nights like last night’s that’s most troublesome.
6) I’m going to level with you. If my team’s in a Game 7, I want Henrik Lundqvist in there. Last four Game 7s, three total goals against. But, I didn’t think he had to be spectacular in this one. He was terrific, don’t get me wrong. I just didn’t think he was fabulous throughout the series. And Steve Mason was fabulous, especially early in Game 6 and throughout Game 7 when the Rangers were as good as they were in Game 5. Crazy series.
7) Alain Vigneault=genius. On the eve of John Tortorella’s dismissal in Vancouver, AV made another minor move that came up aces. His lineup switch to Daniel Carcillo paid off big-time in Game 3, his switch to J.T. Miller was a roaring success in Game 5, and his move back to Carcillo in Game 7 ended up in the first goal of the game — and to that point, the teams that scored first had won 16 consecutive Game 7s. And, hey, AV used his timeout!
8) The Carcillo goal in Game 7 was the fourth in this series off what I call the “Jack in the Box” play, where a player jumps out of the penalty box and scores a goal. It was the third by the Rangers, the second by Carcillo. As @gfallar said on Twitter: “The box is Danny’s home base, he recharges in there.”
9) As was the case in Game 5, I’m not going to list all the guys who played well, because pretty much everybody did. The defense was superb, with a big bounce-back from Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh after a sub-par Game 6 (they tend to do that, come right back after a rare stinker), and yet another remarkably strong game for Marc Staal and Anton Stralman. And the Rangers’ top regular-season line of Mats Zuccarello-Derick Brassard-Benoit Pouliot played its best game of the series. All series, whether Carcillo, Jesper Fast or Miller was on their wing, I thought the Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards combo, Hagelin with his wheels, Richards with his puck skills, was the Rangers best of the top three, and of course, the fourth line just keeps on getting the job done, creating zone time and problems for the opponents. The Rangers are going to need scoring from all lines against the Ice Birds.
10) Sideshow Rinaldo=much, much offensive-zone hilarity and happiness for the Rangers throughout the series. Been going on for three years, actually. And he also took a stupid penalty. Fortunately for him, “stinks” isn’t a strong enough word for the Rangers power play. Maybe Torts can come back as an assistant to help out with that (sarcasm).
11) Going back to Mr. Offensive Zone Penalty, Pouliot. This time, for sure, it wasn’t his fault. he was shoved on top of Mason. Just another of the many dreadful calls throughout these playoffs, against all teams in all series. New game, new rulebook. Pouliot didn’t deserve a penalty. The Hockey Gods smiled with that eye-popping penalty kill — blocked shots by Stralman and Dominic Moore, monstrous plays by Staal and McDonagh. Then the Hockey Gods smiled again, as Pouliot buried Brassard’s pass through two sets of Flyers skates, off a Sideshow Rinaldo turnover.
12) I didn’t see any Rangers fans gang up, 40 against 2, in any drunken brawls in this game for some reason. Oh, right, it wasn’t in Philadelphia. Click here to see Mr. Snider in his private suite for Game 7 at MSG, with his cute little Flyers pennants hanging from a string across the ceiling. And click here to see the Empire State Building all lit up in Blue and Red for the Rangers after the game.
13) How about the guy in the Lundqvist jersey who fired a puck from center ice through a hole the size of a golf ball to win a Lexus during the second intermission? The Garden, I must say, was loud all night long. The bridge shook (I wasn’t happy about that) after both goals, and again at the end of the game. People even put down their phones at times.
14) I don’t care which teams are on which sides, the post-series handshake line is one of the coolest things in hockey, in sports. Actually, it is one of the things that separates hockey and its playoffs from all the other sports. It’s even cooler when it’s two old rivals like these lining up in a show of sportsmanship and respect. And it reminds me how classless some of the Devils were once upon a time, skipping out on the handshake with the Rangers (1997, I think). And how classless Skid Crosby was, leaving Nick Lidstrom hanging to do a TV interview. If Rinaldo and Carcillo, if Derek Dorsett and Wayne Simmonds, Claude Giroux and Girardi, can shake hands at the end of that series, everybody ought to be able to do it. Almost everybody always does.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Marc Staal.
2. Henrik Lundqvist.
3. Daniel Carcillo.
Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Marc Staal/Anton Stralman.
2. Daniel Carcillo.
3. Rick Nash.
Josh Thomson, 26’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Henrik Lundqvist.
2. Anton Stralman.
3. Daniel Carcillo.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Henrik Lundqvist.
2. Anton Stralman.
3. Daniel Carcillo.
Photos by Getty Images.