Thu 10 Apr 2008
In 1994 it was Stephane Matteau. In 1997 it was Adam Graves. Ryan CallahanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game winning goal wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t as dramatic as those series-winning overtime goals, but Ranger fans will take it just the same. The Rangers have now won all five games against the Devils that have ended in regulation time.
The Rangers 4-1 victory helped erase a couple of bad memories. First off, the Rangers ended their four game playoff losing streak to the Devils and ensured that 2005 will not happen again. The Blueshirts, for the time being, rendered the Devils shootout win in the regular season finale moot because home ice advantage has swung to the Rangers.
While they did allow a power play goal, the Rangers won the special teams battle with CallahanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gamer being a shorthanded goal. The Devils power play goal was inevitable once Martin Straka lost his stick and effectively turned New JerseyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s power play into a five-on-three situation. While the Rangers first goal was not Ã¢â‚¬Å“officiallyÃ¢â‚¬Â a power play goal, for all intents and purposes Brendan ShanahanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tally was a power play goal.
There is not much you can say about the way Scott Gomez stepped up in his first playoff game against his former Devil teammates. After a slow start, Gomez proved his worth with three assists on the first three goals and logging the most ice time among the Ranger forwards (20:03). Gomez was solid on face-offs, winning nine of his 15 draws.
The Rangers other playoff Ã¢â‚¬Å“specialistÃ¢â‚¬Â, Chris Drury, did not register a point, but he was effective centering the Rangers most consistent line with Callahan and Nigel Dawes. Drury was even better on face-offs as he won 14 of 18 draws.
Make no mistake about it; this series is far from over. The Devils probably played their best game of the nine matchups against the Rangers. New JerseyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s forecheck managed to pin the Rangers in their own end and forced the Blueshirts into too many turnovers. On the positive side, the Rangers defenders did a strong job of keeping their bodies between the puck and the net Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a must for effective defensive zone play. To counter the Devils forecheck, the Rangers must pick up their own forecheck. They gave the Jersey defensemen too much room and respect.
In addition to the countering the forecheck, the Blueshirts must be careful when they dump the puck into the Devils zone. The Rangers must keep the puck away from Martin Brodeur. One thing the Rangers were effective in doing was keeping Brodeur busy when there were loose pucks around the net. They managed to keep pucks alive and away from Brodeur. In fact, that part of their game probably caused BrodeurÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mistake on the Callahan goal because it was one of the few times that Brodeur was able to handle the puck in the crease without a Ranger stick poking at a loose puck.
It will be interesting to see if the Rangers try to run some set plays from behind the net. While they might not be effective, they might just cause enough head games to keep Brodeur off his game. Given how close each game of this series should be, the Rangers (and the Devils too for that matter) should be looking for any edge they can get.
Despite the pre-game talk of inserting Jason Strudwick into the lineup, Tom Renney went with his six best defensemen by dressing Paul Mara. Considering how important the power play is in this series, Mara needs to be in the lineup Ã¢â‚¬â€œ even though there is some concern as to how physical he can play after discarding the cage protecting his facial injury.
RenneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decision as to the final forward is a more difficult choice. While the Rangers could use Petr PruchaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s offense, a case can be made for having Ryan HollwegÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physical play in the lineup. Interestingly enough, the Rangers fourth line did not get as much ice time as they usually do. Depending on the how the series progresses, Renney might want to consider using Prucha for his offense. For the time being, there should not be a problem with Hollweg dressing as the 12th forward.
Someone has to explain to me how John Madden was voted the Third Star last night. While I am not a big Plus-Minus guy, Madden was a Minus-3 with only two shots on goal and no points. If the media really needed to throw the Devils a bone, they could have found someone a little more deserving.
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