We’re moving on! Winning last night’s stressful seventh game was more of a relief than it was a success, but celebrate we will as Washington waits in the wings for a Saturday afternoon second round matchup. I feel more like I just avoided a bad car accident than anything else – appreciative that no real damage was done but still shaken by the close call of those conference quarterfinals. In the end, the Rangers emerged alive, unscathed, and now look to poise themselves for yet another brutal battle for the right to move on. Playoff hockey, man. It takes years off your life, but what would life be without it?
Before we get swept up into another series (that’ll hopefully end in a sweep of the Capitals), let’s relive the pain, pressure, and pleasure of last night’s winner-take-all…Click after the jump for some real hockey talk if you’re sick of KFC babbling like a broad.
- The Rangers came out exactly as they needed to, forechecking hard and forcing Ottawa into rushed passes. The MSG crowd was certainly fueling the fire, and they nearly exploded early in the first when Marian Gaborik missed a good two-on-one chance off of a feed from Brad Richards. Both guys scored a big goal and made a couple big plays for us this series, but I think everyone would still love to see their offensive production become a little more consistent as the playoffs move on. Hopefully with Hagelin’s suspension behind him, the first line will go back to their game-changing ways.
- Without solid defensive efforts backed up by a clearly-in-the-zone Henrik Lundqvist, Ottawa might have taken a lead late in the first as they pressed with possession and passed it around like they were on a goddamn power play. Thankfully the first ended with the score tied 0-0 because if somehow the Senators had put one home then the whole energy and attitude advantage of playing at home goes right out the window.
- The second started much better for the Rangers as they went up 2-0 in the first 10 minutes. Secondary scoring is key to success, so goals from Marc “Soup for Brains” Staal and Dan “Did I Really Just Score?” Girardi were absolute gifts from the hockey gods above. Derek Stepan’s phenomenal pass through the legs of Erik Karlsson plopped right onto Staal’s stick tape, who nearly missed his chance to put the Blueshirts in front. Girardi’s goal was the result of a 5-on-3 rush that caught Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson gliding like lazy bums on an important back check. Great heads up passes from Fedotenko, Dubinsky and Prust saw the puck squirt out into an abandoned slot, where Danny G made no mistake slapping it past Anderson for the two goal lead. Still plenty left to play though…
- Hard to really be pissed about this since we won the game and all, but goddamnit were those refs fucking terrible. Seriously, throw some more people out of the face off circle why don’t you? After using the “let them play” attitude to excuse Ottawa of about four obvious infractions, they call MDZ for some typical net front exchange with the always classy Chris Neil. Then later whistled Dubinsky for a hold on Spezza that saw the Senator pull an Kesslerian flop once he felt the hands come up and make contact. Credit the secondary assist on Alfie’s power play goal to the zebras, 2-1 Rangers after two.
- The Blueshirts played phenomenal defensively and, aside from a few times when they got trapped in their own zone for whole minutes, managed to frustrate the fuck out of Ottawa’s transitional game. McD, MDZ, Staal, Stralman, Girardi and Bickel held their ground at the blueline perfectly and jumped on every misjudged touch from the Senators. When the puck did find its way into precarious positions, every skater wearing red, white and blue was willing to throw their bodies into its path. Said the Senator Nick Foligno, “it’s like they have six goalies out there”. You gotta have balls to block pucks…
- How about this Chris Kreider kid! Obviously we knew the dude was hyped up and bound to be a successful pro, but it’s tough to overstate exactly how ridiculous the former BC boy was last night. Still a liability out there at time, but he made several insane defensive plays to deny Ottawa open net opportunities and was nothing short of a force on the forecheck. Hagelin’s speed with Boyle’s size and he’s not too bad in the face-off circle either. When asked about the prospect of developing both Kreider and Hagelin over the next couple years, Torts simply said “I’m licking my chops”. No shit, I’m moist as a motherfucker just thinking about what the future holds for these two prospects-turned-pros. The Roaring 20′s line of Callahan, Stepan and Kreider is now set in stone and given a little more time to gel might become one of the best second units in the game. Absolutely unreal effort from the kids last night, and watching the continued revival of Derek Stepan has been nothing short of inspirational.
- HEN-RIK! HEN-RIK! As clutch as he is gorgeous, the Rangers goalie managed to mull Senator momentum at every turn with absolutely huge saves at key times. The stoned Michalek on a short handed chance and was as strong as you could ask when Ottawa came crashing the net. Recently named a Vezina trophy finalist, it’s obvious to anyone watching that the King is only concerned with winning one trophy this summer and that’s Lord Stanley’s cup. With Washington up next, he’ll need to be even more in tune with his team as they look to avoid gifting any games to Dale Hunter and crew.
- As the buzzer sounded and the hand shakes took place, it was hard not to step back from recent feelings of xenophobia and recognize what a solid team the Ottawa Senators are. Picked by almost everyone to finish dead last in the East, they fought their way into the playoffs and pushed the #1 seed as far as they could. Craig Anderson deserves a great deal of praise for the show he put on, and despite his Game 6 outburst Alfie is a class act as well. Aside from Chris “Ass Face” Neil, who has now reached Matt Cooke-like levels of loathing amongst Ranger fans, and Milan “Kick It” Michalek, who every time he touched the puck made me sick to my stomach after that bullshit non-suspension, it’s hard not to tip your hat to the team from Canada’s capital. Congrats on a good season, boys.
- In the other Eastern Conference semis, Philadelphia will take on New Jersey as the Devils managed to win their own game 7 last night in double overtime. Adam “Calder” Henrique played the hero as they rode Marty’s experience to a 3-2 win over Florida. Ended a little late for my tastes, but their victory means yet another vicious Atlantic matchup that could easily go the distance. Can’t wait to watch these two teams rip each other to shreds when the series starts on Sunday.
Ain’t no rest for the wicked. Barely time to catch our breath as the Rangers skate out on Saturday to meet the Washington Capitals. The NHL might just show all of these games on ABC because this series is all about revenge, baby. 2009. 2011. It’s time to pay DC back like a celebrity in tax debt. Bring it on, and LET’S GO RANGERS! @Osgood_StoolNYC