April 29, 2012

For those comparing the future success of the Rangers based on their prior two playoff eliminations by the Washington Capitals…you can stop. John Tortorella said it was a bunch of “crap.”

His assessment is right. What happened in the last two playoff runs has nothing to do with what is happening right now with his club. With the remarkable season that they’ve had, it’s hard to compare this club to the club the Capitals faced in the prior two playoff eliminations.

This season, the Rangers hard work ethic and focused mentality has the Capitals facing a much different club.

With the first game under the Rangers’ belt, they can celebrate for 15 minutes and then get back to work again. That is probably the most important factor in going into game two. Have your fun post-game celebration, and then get back to focusing on the next game.

That mentality has kept the Rangers grounded as they head into their second game in the Round 2 series. As other media types have said, Tortorella’s no nonsense, facing a bad situation head on before it can actually become a problem has been his main strategy for success this season. After all, the Rangers have seen what can happen when you stay focused on the game itself.

Between the two clubs amassing four penalties a piece, their power play wasn’t where they tallied their goals. Every single goal came from even strength play. Either that says something about each team’s penalty kill unit, or it says something about their power play. Maybe it is just a little bit of both.

“They don’t shoot a lot,” Henrik Lundqvist said when he discussed what he saw of Washington in the Boston series. “They stay back…away from mistakes. They have patience. I think it’s going to be a tight game. We just have to wait for our chances. You can’t force it or take too many chances. They’re a skilled team, too. If you open up, they’re going to hurt you a little bit.

“I think this is the way that we’re going to have to play. It might not be the most fun to watch sometimes.”

The first period was marked with half of the penalties in the game. It took 32:38 before the first goal could light up Madison Square Garden. That goal came from Rangers’ Artem Anisimov, his first of the playoffs. With only 3.5 seconds remaining in the middle stanza, Capitals’ Jason Chimera tied up the game to end the period 1-1.

Even with that goal right before the intermission, the Rangers did not let it get to them. They came back out in the final period with a mission to keep playing their game.

“That could have hurt us big time,” Lundqvist said of the late Washington goal. “We came in here and regrouped.

“The important thing is that we go out in the third and take charge and don’t stay back and wait for something to happen.”

With just 7:00 into the final period, 20 year old Chris Kreider scored for the Rangers. This goal marked Kreider’s second goal of the playoffs, as well as the second goal in his two weeks in the NHL.

With Kreider scoring the game winner, Brad Richards went on to score the insurance goal at 8:30. Both Kreider and Gaborik assisted in the goal.

“I just like the way we rebounded after getting scored on at the end of the [second] period,” coach John Tortorella said. “We kept on ourselves and played our game.”

That mentality going into the third period was the most important, as well as the winning factor in game one.

With a 3-1 win over the Capitals, the Rangers have started the series off 1-0 in their favor.

Kreider Off to Great Start

On Monday, Kreider turns 21 years old. It’s pretty amazing what he’s been able to accomplish before turning 21. He’s not only collected two goals and an assist in his first couple of weeks in the NHL, but he’s living a very surreal dream come true.

On April 16th, Kreider made his NHL debut. After capturing his second NCAA Championship with Boston College on April 7th, he signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers and started playing in his first NHL playoffs nine days after winning the NCAA title.

Seven days after his first NHL appearance, he scored his first NHL goal (in the playoffs). That first goal was also the game-winner against Ottawa at 19:19 of the second period in Round 1, Game 6 of the playoffs.

The last time a player made their NHL debut following an NCAA championship win was John Byce with Boston in 1990.

It’s very rare that a kid can come from a college game and go directly to the NHL just a few days later. Kreider may be young and the new kid on the block, but he’s already playing like a seasoned veteran in the NHL.

“Poise is probably the most important part of how he’s handling himself,” Richards said of Kreider. “He’s not overwhelm[ed] in the second part of the series. His legs…it’s nice to have a set of legs like that where you can get that speed and use that size. Hopefully he keeps going.”

“As far as him making a difference after every shift,” Tortorella said. “It’s real good stuff for a young kid.

“He’s just a quiet, unassuming kid. I think we’ve got a good group of people, a tight group, that we talked about before he came. As far as the situation he’s in, coming into a team that did the things we did during the regular season, how difficult it could be for him before he even came into town. I think both of them have handled themselves very well…the team and him. They’ve joined him.

“I talked to the team before Kreids came in. It’s difficult. It’s hard. It’s a hard situation for a kid. I think both parts of the team and him have handled themselves well lately.”

Kreider joins five other Rangers making their NHL playoff debut: Michael Del Zotto (2 assists), Carl Hagelin (1 assist), John Mitchell and Anton Stralman (2 goals, 2 assists).

For Kreider, the reality hasn’t truly sunk in yet that he’s in New York playing in the NHL. It’s still just too good to be true.

“Two weeks ago, I was playing in college,” Kreider said after the Rangers win. “I’m just really happy to be here.”

“Surreal is a good way to sum it up.”

About The Author

Michelle Kenneth has been with Inside Hockey since 2007 as the beat reporter for the New Jersey Devils. She is also part of the IH team covering the New York Rangers. Since 2007, she's covered the Stanley Cup Finals, NHL All-Stars, NHL Awards, Winter Classic, Stadium Series and the NHL in Europe. You can follow Michelle on Twitter @MichelleKenneth and on her blog: michellekennethhockey.wordpress.com.

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