New York, NY – What a week for the Rangers! They had to win three straight games to squeeze past the Caps. They cleared the final hurdle Wednesday night on Derek Stepan’s overtime winner. The goal sent the Garden and the city into raptures and the Rangers into the Eastern Conference Final for a meeting with the Tampa Bay
Ex-Rangers Lightning. It also gives Mets fans something to cheer about, now that their season is over.
The Blueshirts won a tough series against a hungry Caps team by the odd goal in 25 over the seven games. Every game was decided by a single goal. Braden Holtby in goal for the Capitals was phenomenal throughout the series. King Henrik was one goal better. Both goalies made just about all of the saves they should have and a lot of saves they shouldn’t have. It was a
The Rangers struggled to get things going offensively throughout the series. The top line sorely missed the injured Mats Zuccarello. Rick Nash and Derek Brassard played well but they were missing the scoring and passing touch that Zuc provides. Martin St. Louis struggled to keep up with the pace and physicality of the game and was even replaced on the top line by JT Miller for a spell during Wednesday night’s game 7.
Two thirds of the Blueshirts’ defensive core was stellar throughout the series. But Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle both had an awful series. Through the first three games of the series, four of the five Capitals goals were the fault of Boyle and/or Yandle. At the start of the series when Kevin Klein came back, I was hoping hat Boyle would become the healthy scratch instead of Matt Hunwick. I thought Hunwick played well enough in the Pittsburgh series to earn a spot in the lineup. But Alain Vigneault has a hard on for veterans. So Boyle kept logging a lot of minutes on the ice even after proving he was useless. And AV kept Boyle and Yandle as a pair for most of the series even though Mr. Magoo could see that they were a liability together.
When Brooks Orpik leveled a brutal hit on Boyle late in Game 7 Wednesday night, I must confess to thinking that it would probably be a blessing for the Rangers if Boyle didn’t return. I never want to see a player get hurt. Especially not a concussion when Dan Boyle has had a history of the brain bruises. But the hit might force Alain Vigneault’s hand and get Boyle out of the lineup.
Looking ahead to the Eastern Conference Final against the Lightning, the Rangers will need to find some more offense. Their best skaters in the Capitals series were youngsters Jesper Fast and Chris Kreider. Kevin Hayes came on as the series progressed also. The Blueshirts will need more production from Rick Nash. He scored a big goal in Game 6, but other than that he didn’t have much going forward. Marty St. Louis had a rough series. He’ll have to be better against his former team.
The Rangers will also need to stay out of the penalty box against the Lightning. They are a team that gains a lot of momentum on the man advantage and their offense is too good to give too many chances being a man down. Ryan Callahan had an emergency appendectomy earlier this week, but it looks like he won’t miss much, if any, time. The Blueshirts will have to keep the ex-captain quiet this series. They will also need to find a way to beat Ben Bishop who has given the Rangers fits over the past couple of seasons.
Tune in to tomorrow’s Game 1 at 1pm on NBC. And come back here tomorrow for fellow Rangers fan Junoir Blaber.