The road to the Cup picked up steam last night at the Garden as the Rangers won their first playoff series since beating the Devils in 1997. The sweep against the over matched, underachieving Thrashers was the first for the Rangers since they swept the Islanders in the first round of their 1994 Stanley Cup run. See any omens here?
This was the toughest game of the four for the Rangers. Was it any tougher than the last thirty games or so in that the Rangers have been playing and fighting as they came roaring down the stretch? I think not. Three of the four games were close and competitive but you never had the feeling that the Rangers weren't in full control. So believe it or not, the Rangers become the first team to advance to the second round of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs. How about those apples.
The three stars of the game for the Rangers were Matt Cullen (1), with his game winning, video reviewed, goal. Brendan Shanahan (3) with his game tying (2-2) goal and Henrik Lundqvist who made 24 saves. The Prince was outstanding the entire series giving up four goals in six games for a 1.5 GAA and a save percentage of .939. He and the Ranger defense shut down the vaunted Thrasher offense that saw only two goals from the big four of Hossa, Kozlov, Kovalchuk and Tkachuk. Marian Hossa had a particularly bad series with just one assist and a minus six for the four game series. Younger brother Marcel had a goal, an assist and was a plus five. It should be an interesting time in the Hossa household this summer. However, Marian will have to wait a while while Marcel continues to conduct business.
So the Rangers gained redemption for last years sweep by the Devils. The fans, who gave the Rangers a three minute standing ovation at the conclusion of last years playoffs, were ecstatic last night. Streaming out of the Garden they were chanting, "We want the Cup." Why not. The way this team has fought down the stretch has made them battled hardened for what lies before them. In Henrik Lundqvist the Rangers, right now, have the premier goalie in the NHL. Last year in the playoffs he played hurt. This year he is a steel curtain. Jagr played hurt also last year, but this year he looks like he visited the fountain of youth the way he has been skating. Jagr wound up with two goals and five assists for the playoffs with seven points, second to Michael Nylander with 4-4-8, who discovered that it is okay to shoot the puck. Brendan Shanahan delivered on what he was brought here to do, score goals. He had three in four games, none bigger than last nights.
But talking about the future will have to wait for another day. Let's relish in this outstanding playoff sweep and let the other pretenders fight it out to see who can avoid playing the Rangers in round two. A dominant performance by the Rangers in eliminating a number three seed has sent shock waves throughout the Eastern Conference. Let the games continue.
April 19, 2007
Shanny Got What He Came For
Lundqvist Makes Sure Series Is Over
For Chippy Game, Orr Gets Call
Follow Bouncing Puck And Advance
Rookies, Stars Meet Their Goal
Heads-Up Play From Shanahan
For Rangers, It's So Sweep
Defense On Lockdown