With nine games left in the season, The New York Rangers have become the first team to secure a playoff spot this postseason. As much as their previous game against The Los Angeles Kings cast a shadow of doubt over the club, Thursday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators demonstrated that the Rangers are a true contender.
One of the great things about this team as a whole is their collective amnesia and ability to bounce back after a tough game. The Rangers faced an Ottawa team who have been the hottest team in the NHL, going 14-0-1 in their last 15 games. In response the Rangers displayed one of the best defensive games all season.
The platform for Thursday night’s game depicted a Senators club positioned in the second Wild-Card playoff spot determined to continue the Cinderella story that has been written in the last month. The Senators lost their marquee goaltender in Chris Anderson, as well as backup goaltender Robin Lehner relying on their 27-year-old third stringer, and AHL veteran, Andrew ‘The Hamburgler’ Hammond.
The rookie backstopped a Senators club, which had been written off earlier in the season, acquire 29 out of 30 points. Hammond was on track to tie an NHL record set by Patrick Lalime by earning at least a point in his first 16 starts as a goalie. He got to 15.
The New York Rangers despite making many petty mistakes, which put them on the penalty, kill a total of six times dominated in nearly every aspect of the game winning 5-1. The Rangers despite drawing zero penalties of their own scored 5 goals on 32 shots, and where blistering across the ice. The act of spoiler was artfully done as the Senators seemed to be out played and outmatched throughout the game despite being toted as a team no one would want to face in the playoffs.
That all may be well and good, but the game the Rangers carried out against the Senators showed not only why this team is in the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year, but why they were the first to clinch a berth. They are able to bounce back quickly from a poor performance not losing consecutive games since February 8th.
Their defense is overwhelming; on Thursday they allowed one goal on 24 shots, and as previously mentioned blanked Ottawa on six power plays. Dan Girardi had a career game where he was seemingly everywhere making plays along the boards, making hits, and checking the puck that disrupted any chances of the Senators getting into a rhythm.
Recent acquisition Keith Yandel showed his continued improvement after joining the team in early march as he also played a very strong game, tallying 1 assist, and 2 blocked shots, and finishing at a +2 for the evening. Their offense is blistering fast and deep with talent. Chris Kreider who has been stellar in his last five games, had two goals and an assist in last nights performance.
One particularly satisfying goal showcased his pure speed power, and determination as he crushed a loose puck in the net off a rebound. Dan Boyle had a goal off of a beautiful pass by Rick Nash. A play that was seemingly even matched coming through the neutral zone turned into a an odd man rush which resulted in Boyle sinking the puck top shelf off a nasty wrist shot.
Hammond was pulled after the second period. The Rangers would not be denied despite being on the Penalty Kill for 14 minutes and defending a 5 on 2 break on two separate occasions. Nowhere was the determination of this team more evident then on Tanner Glass’ goal.
Tallying his first goal as a New York Ranger, Glass broke out of the penalty box flying to the net as Kevin Hayes, who himself put up two assists, feathered a pass across ice right on the tape which glass then buried past the Sens Goaltender. It was a good night to be a Rangers fan.
The New York Rangers performing as one of the best hockey teams in the NHL since November have so far racked up 101 points, breaking the 100 point mark for only the eighth time in franchise history. Currently competing for the most points in the NHL, and in tandem the President’s Trophy the New York Rangers have at least two games in hand on every other team also vying for that prize.
Looking ahead home ice is an important aspect of the playoffs, and the Rangers are on pace to secure that advantage. The beauty about this run is the consistency, and the ability for one individual to pick up where another has left off. Those key factors are what make this team so devastating, and so competitive as they move forward into the post season.