That’s what the Rangers are and that accounts for the “Can’t Wait For Monday” feeling among the Garden Faithful.
Or, to put it another way, Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final could not arrive soon enough for the Blueshirts, who have adjusted to the Lightning’s giddyap-style as well as they did to the Capitals’ conk ’em formula.
Check it out; the Blueshirts’ re-entry to the Stanley Cup Final is a mere three wins away.
The Lightning are not the Capitals, but they managed to lose in the same way; by a goal. The New Yorkers smoothly segued from the rock-’em-sock-’em Washington way with their heart-throbbing 2-1 win on Saturday afternoon.
Win or lose, Alain Vigneault‘s sextet always provides a learning experience. The following are a dozen useful questions and answers to carry forward to Game 2 on Monday night.
1. HOW DO YOU TURN NOTHING INTO SOMETHING? In the first period on Saturday, the Rangers responded to the deliriously happy crowd by outshooting the offensive-minded Lightning 11-7. The Blueshirts also outhit the visitors 14-8. Why did they get nothing out of it?
ANSWER: New York had the chances, but the Lightning got the breaks. The trick Monday is to turn hit posts — as Kevin Hayes did — and put them into the twine. Post-clangs are fine for the visiting team. A bit better accuracy is necessary for New York. Ergo: Cash in on chances, don’t waste them. That said, the Rangers produced another one-goal W which, really, is all that matters.
2. IS IT NECESSARY TO PAY HOMAGE TO THE BISHOP?
ANSWER: Ben Bishop of Tampa Bay is a graduate of the Martin Brodeur School of Puckhandling Goalies. His expeditions from the crease make him both vulnerable and targetable. In the first period, Derick Brassard almost scored when he swiped a pass from the big goalie. Tanner Glass might want to become the traffic cop on the Bishop Thruway in the next game. Glass should eschew homage and replace it with screening the Bishop in Game 2 as much as possible.
3. WHO WAS THE BEST RANGERS FORWARD AND LIKELY THE NEXT BEST?
ANSWER: Dominic Moore came off the bench late in the third to deliver the winner. Once again, Derek Stepan produced, this time late in the second period in as timely — as usual — a manner as possible; with a lot of help from Chris Kreider. (Note: It helps when Bishop conveniently loses his goal stick, isn’t it? Kreider is due for a biggie on Monday. Ditto Rick Nash.)
4. WHICH ENEMY IS THERE TO BOO?
ANSWER: Sorry, but there’s no Sluggo like Washington’s Brooks Orpik or the annoying Evgeny Kuznetsov. The only Lightning to boo — so far — would be Ryan Callahan for skipping Broadway for the Southland. On Saturday, he received a tepid boo here and there. Don’t expect much more on Monday. He’s still too respected to be subjected to that nonsense.
5. WHO IS THE BEST RANGERS SURPRISE? AND WORST FOR THE LIGHTNING?
ANSWER: Moore, if you call a defensive scorer tallying the winner. As for Tampa Bay, what’s left of the Brian Boyle Marching and Chowder Society was miffed that the ex-Rangers forward was a pre-game scratch for mysterious reasons.
6. WHAT WERE THE BEST SAVES OF GAME 1?
ANSWER: Benny The Bishop did alright for himself, deflating both Hayes and Stepan’s breakaways in the first period. As for Henrik Lundqvist, how about the fact that he was one save better than Bishop. That is, “The King” saved the W. That’s better than any single stop by either goalie.
7. WHAT WAS THE MOST STRATEGIC SUCCESSFUL RANGERS MOVE IN GAME ONE?
ANSWER: The Blueshirts defusing the last Lightning third-period power play with the score still tied 1-1. That turned out to be the pre-game-winner. The Rangers’ very effective PK set the stage for Moore’s winner. New York could use Moore of that in Game 2.
8. WHAT WAS THE BEST RANGERS COACH PRE-GAME QUOTE?
ANSWER: Asked how he feels facing his former players Callahan and Anton Stralman, Alain Vigneault shot back, “They’re not my players anymore.”
9. HOW COME THE OUTSTANDING STEVE STAMKOS WASN’T?
ANSWER: The Rangers’ most underrated defenseman, Marc Staal, shadowed Stamkos like a dark cloud. In a sense, Stamkos is the Lightning’s version of Washington’s Alex Ovechkin; except that The Great 8 is more exciting, more reliable and much stronger. The Rangers will be able to deflate Stamkos throughout the series. And that’s why I picked New York to win in five games; maybe four.
10. WHY AM I SO CONFIDENT THAT THIS SERIES IS IN THE BAG FOR THE BLUESHIRTS?
ANSWER: Game 1 proves that New York is faster to the puck than the Lightning. From the first period to Moore’s third-period winner, AV’s skaters out-lightninged the Lightning. Time and again, they our-raced their foes along the boards and extracted the puck for dangerous point shots. Speed also was decisive on Moore’s winner. Add to that the fact that the Rangers balance up front tilts heavily in favor of the Seventh Avenue Skaters.
11. HOW DID RYAN CALLAHAN IMPRESS IN HIS QUICK COMEBACK FROM AN APPENDECTOMY?
ANSWER: The ex-Rangers captain played his usual hard, smart game. He wasn’t dominant but the fact that he played — and effectively — is tribute enough to his guts and teamsmanship.
12. WHAT MORE CAN BE EXPECTED OF THE RANGERS IN GAME 2?
ANSWER: They should — and will — score more; converting on chances they missed on Saturday. Martin St. Louis is due for a bust-out. Having it come against his former team would be icing on the cake.