It didn’t end how Rangers thought it would or how they would have liked, however there are some positives in the triple OT game one loss. I generally hate the “positive spin” takes after a hard playoff loss but today I’m going to be that guy.
Positives: The Rangers utterly dominated the entire first period against the Penguins and could’ve walked out of the period with a three or four goal lead if not for DeSmith. The Rangers opened the game with a hard heavy start and totally controlled and dictated the play in what was the best opening frame the Rangers played all year.
One of the biggest questions fans had was how would the kids react to postseason pressure. Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, and Kaapo Kakko gave a resoundingly strong answer that they’re ready for the moment. The “kid line” was unflinchingly the best line that Gerard Gallant could send over the boards. The young trio was electric creating chances all night including the controversial Chytil game winning goal that was called back late in the third.
Igor Shesterkin was absolutely sensational in his MSG postseason debut keeping the Rangers in the game especially when the clubs game fell off in front of him. It took the Penguins backdoor passes, Ranger defensive breakdowns, and an Evgeni Malkin deflection to beat the young Russian netminder. I mean 79 saves on 83 shot attempts is one hell of a solo effort to attempt to win a game for your club. Nothing but stick taps to Igor on his effort in game one.
Negatives: The entire 2nd period sans Andrew Copp and Chris Kreider’s goals. This was one of the worst periods of Rangers hockey I’ve seen in a long time. It was eerily similar to the period they played in Toronto back in October where the Leafs dominated the Rangers and Shesterkin channeled his best Henrik Lundqvist impression to steal the win in overtime. The Rangers looked too much like the pre-deadline Rangers where they got caught trying to play “too perfect” and not simplify their game. On top of playing too pretty the Rangers utterly lost their discipline which led to their undoing and that can’t happen the rest of the series.
While writing this I think Jake Guentzel scored another goal. The Blueshirts need to be far more aware of where Guentzel is at all times on the ice and last night they weren’t and he made them pay. Crosby, Malkin, Letang, and Guentzel must be marked at all times and not be lost in coverage. If Kasperi Kapanen or Teddy Bluger happen to beat you then you tip your cap and force them to do it again. You don’t let the Penguins top guns be able to control the game. NYR must to a better job limiting the Penguins top guns time and space moving forward.
I could go on forever on how Nemeth was a net negative the entire game but I’ll just play Justin Braun from here on out and call it a day.
Gallant’s bench management throughout OT was a bit concerning. He seemed to be leaning a little two much on the top two lines and not using the kid line much. There was a little too much double shifting of Panarin and Zibanejad’s line and then one shift for the kids every 5-6 shifts or so to try and give the top two lines a blow. When the kids were effective as they were you have to let them run more and use their young legs to your advantage against an older team like Pittsburgh.
The NHL and their officials, it’s a joke you don’t know what goalie interference is still. It’s also sad you can use replay and still get the call totally wrong. If I could I’d fine the league 5k for not knowing how to do their jobs. This is not just your typical homer bias as even the Penguins broadcast thought it was a good goal.
Overall: Game one was a learning experience for the young Rangers. They were taught a huge lesson in puck management during the playoffs and how one mistake can quickly snowball and unravel all the good you’ve done. Teams in the playoffs don’t just close up shop after going down 2-0 and while we may not like it, the Rangers learned that. Some lessons have to be taught the hard way and this is one of those occasions. I for one believe the team will be better off for it moving forward from here.
Maybe the biggest thing from a Rangers fan perspective is that fans need to take a deep breath. Game one meant far more to the Pens than the Rangers especially in OT with the Penguins pretty much controlling things from the 2nd period on. The beauty of a heartbreaking loss like this one is that it was early in the series and not at a deeper time. While a tough pill to swallow, there is plenty of hockey still to be played. The Rangers will bounce back with a strong effort in game two because we’ve seen this team’s ability to bounce back from adversity all season long and this is no different.
ICYMI: Last night we recorded our latest podcast episode towards the end of the first period – hence all the joy in our recording at first. We were also joined by Jake Hahn of Sirius XM NHL Network Radio who has been an awesome guest on multiple occasions. We talk the Rangers and the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can listen to that episode here: