For the New York Rangers the story of their season continues into game one of the playoffs against the Washington Capitols. Henrik Lundqvist played an outstanding game only allowing one regulation goal including stopping Nicklas Backstrom on a second period breakaway. The Rangers offense could not back-up Henrik’s great play by giving him any breathing room. They were only able to post one goal causing the game to go to overtime where it was eventually lost with a goal from Alexander Semin.
In Pittsburgh, the Penguins are off and running with their 3-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was able to hold off the high powered Lightning offense with 32 saves and a shutout in game one. One thing is for sure, Tampa Bay will not be held scoreless throughout this series. The Penguins played a good defensive game even though there were some breakdowns where Fleury had to step up. In the playoffs your goaltender needs to be your best player and last night Fleury was just that for the Penguins.
Looking ahead to game two for the Rangers and the Penguins, there are many variables to look out for.
The Rangers have the most work ahead of them. Without Ryan Callahan in the line-up New York needs to find another offensive threat to help Marian Gaborik put pressure on either Michal Neuvirth or Semyon Varlamov. Vinny Prospal has a great scoring record against Washington in the playoffs with six goals and eight assists in 14 games against the Capitals. Players like Prospal, Drury, Prust and Christensen will need to start producing offensively if the Rangers hope to stay with Washington during this series.
If this regular season is any indication on how the Rangers matchup against the Capitals, New York has a huge advantage. In four meetings this season the Rangers were 3-1 outscoring the Capitols 18-6 including two 7-0 shutouts. Brian Boyle was the star in the regular season series with three goals and four assists in the four matches. He is another the Rangers will look to for production.
If Alex Ovechkin can be shutdown, New York should have a great chance at winning this series.
The Rangers are already in a must-win situation with game two in Washington this Friday. Going down 2-0 against this team might be a hole too big for New York to climb out of.
The Penguins played a great game one against the Lightning but the pressure Fleury saw from this offense will only continue forcing the Penguins to keep up. Steve Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne and Teddy Purcell posted big numbers this season and will not stay quiet for long. Without Crosby in the line-up the Pens will look to newly acquired winger James Neal to make a name for himself in Pittsburgh. Neal was a key to the Dallas Stars offense and has been slow to start since joining Pittsburgh late in the season. Alex Kovalev is a great offensive playmaker but cannot carry the load himself anymore. At 38 years of age, Alex will need help to get it done on a Penguins team missing their two best players in Crosby and Malkin.
Game two is Friday in Pittsburgh and if the Pens can steal another one and go to Tampa Bay with a 2-0 lead they will be in great shape. They can’t afford to give the Lightning any life in this series.