Look, I’m never the guy to say a series is over after one game. But after the Rangers beat the Penguins, 2-1 in Game 1 of Divisional Semifinals, it’s clear that the Rangers are the superior team.
Moreover, sitting next to this intrepid reporter in the press box were some of the Pittsburgh Penguins – staff and inactive players – and just by looking at their actions, you can tell they are seeing the inevitable.
The players cursed up a storm and picked on every call against Pittsburgh – always a loser move, while the staff mulled about the series going five so they can come back to New York.
It’s easy to see why. Just 28 seconds into the game, the Rangers took the lead on Derick Brassard’s goal and never looked back.
“It was definitely a good start,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “We were looking to have a good start. We knew that we were going to be in a battle.”
And battle they did. Only because Marc-Andre Fleury was fantastic in goal for the Penguins with 36 saves, Pittsburgh was in this match, but in reality, the score was very deceptive.
The Rangers outshot the Pens, 38 to 25. They played a very clan game with only one penalty compared to Pittsburgh’s five and when the Penguins cut the lead in half, the Rangers were able to take back the momentum by the end of the period.
Simply put there was no drama in the game. You knew the Rangers were going to win this one.
“I think we controlled the momentum of the game pretty much the whole time,” said Brassard. “Especially in the second period, even after they score their goal, I think we used our speed. We cycled the puck, we were playing around their net I think for a big part of the game. That’s what we need to do. Every time we turn the puck over in the neutral zone, that’s what they want. They want to turn back. Crosby, Malkin – they want to turn back (and then) they’re going to have some speed, they’re going to have better scoring chances. We played a solid game. It was a really good effort, but now we have to put it behind us. We’re going to enjoy it tonight, and tomorrow is another day.”
That’s true. All this win gives the Rangers is a lead in the series. But let me ask you this: Is it more likely the Penguins win the next four of six or the Rangers play .500.
The Rangers seem to be getting better and better, while the Penguins barely made the playoffs after a free fall.
And everyone knows it. The Rangers. Penguins. You and me.
“It was a combination of the first shot [for the Rangers] going in and giving them some momentum on their ice,” said Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston. “The momentum, the crowd, the surge, and those penalties – they [the Rangers] earned it. It took a lot of momentum away from our team. Key players couldn’t get on the ice, so certainly that was a key factor in the start of the game for sure. In the second and third, we certainly got better. Our game started to come as we played them 5-on-5 which was a good sign, a positive sign. But we need to look at the whole game, including penalties. I thought maybe two of them were bad penalties for sure.”
Tonight was the Pens best shot. They played well and held in there, but the Rangers were just a little better.
This should be a short series.