NEW YORK, NY – It’s finally here. The regular season is over and the NHL playoffs started Wednesday night and the New York Rangers got off to a flying start. The Blueshirts shut out Les Habitants in a raucous Bell Centre (Canadian Spelling) to take a 1-0 series lead. It wasn’t the best game the Rangers have played this season, but they put on a clinic playing with a lead in the third period.
The goal came from an unlikely scorer. Tanner Glass spent the season bouncing between the Rangers healthy scratch list and the AHL. When he did play, he didn’t suck like in years past. He played well enough in Alain Vigneault’s eyes to earn a spot in the Game 1 lineup over Russian rookie Pavel Buchnevich. It didn’t take long for Glass to prove his detractors wrong. Halfway through the first period the puck fell on his blade from a face-off. With his back to goal he sent the puck over Carey Price’s left shoulder to give the Rangers a lead they wouldn’t give up. The goal was beautiful if not lucky. Glass seemed to catch Price off guard. But it was all the Rangers needed.
The fourth line did a tremendous job in general Wednesday night. They kept up the physicality throughout the game and were by far the most effective line. The rest of the forwards struggled to string passes together and looked sloppy at times. They squandered a number of chances and barely managed a shot on a lengthy 5-on-3. But the entire team played a solid shut-down third period. They kept their shifts short, stayed out of the penalty box, and got the puck deep in the Montreal zone.
The Rangers finally added an empty netter in the dying moments of the third to ice the game. The Rangers defencemen (Canuck spelling), with the exception of Holden, played superbly. Kevin Klein was a healthy scratch in Game 1 so we may see him in the lineup at Holden’s expense for Game 2 tonight. But then again I’ve been terrible at predicting what Alain Vigneault will do so Holden might be in the lineup again.
Henrik Lundqvist looked kingly in goal Wednesday night. There have been some serious concerns about the declining form of the legendary net-minder. But if Game 1 is a sign of things to come, the Rangers and their fans have nothing to worry about. He’ll need to be sharp because this Canadiens team didn’t play to their potential on Wednesday. The physicality was there, but the passing and shooting was lacking. Look for the Habs to come out firing tonight. The Rangers will need to weather the storm and find a way to be more clinical with their scoring chances. Winning two games in Montreal to start the series would be a dream. I don’t think the Rangers have won two regular season games in Montreal in the last decade.
Being successful north of the border is huge for Broadway Blues, as their home form has been suspect this season. Splitting the first two games on the road doesn’t hold the same weight as it normally would. But if Hank can play like he did in Game 1 and the forwards settle down and play to their potential, the Blueshirts will be just fine.
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