If captain Ryan Callahan has shown his team what hard work and versatility can bring, then those traits have been modeled and shaped into a defensive winning pattern for New York. In Game 1 of the Devils series, the Rangers held the New Jersey Devils at bay by getting in the way. Outshooting the Devils 28-21 was only part of the story, as lanes were blocked, dives were taken and scoring chances melted away for New Jersey.
The Rangers led blocked shots, 26-15, in large part to the stalwart defense of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal who both had a game-high of five blocked shots each. Girardi improved his league-leading tally of blocked shots to 52 in the postseason.
Wearing the Broadway Hat, veteran defenseman Dan Girardi was indispensable notching the first goal of the series in the third period setting the stage for the win. With a 25:11 game-high of ice time, Girardi added a power-play assist, and a plus-two rating. In the last six games, Girardi has accrued five points (one goal, four assists. Girardi and fellow Blueshirt Michael Del Zotto both have nine points in postseason play, and are tied for the NHL lead among defensemen in playoff scoring.
Offensive scoring has been the swing the defense needed in New York. Led by Michael Del Zotto, he set a career-high, six shots on goal with an assist on the game-winning-goal in Game 1. He lit eight points (two goals, six assists) in the last 10 games, including three points (one goal, two assists) in the last two games. In a pre-game interview Del Zotto credited New York’s physical play as their strength against the New Jersey Devils. Taking four hits in 22:41 of ice time, Del Zotto reference “banging bodies” as the game-winning tactic needed to divert the Devils.
Most valuable body banger in Game 1 would have to be Ryan McDonagh, who saved the day more than once denying Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk scoring opportunities in the first period. Hitting and grinding in the passing lanes, McDonagh has fit into the defensive demeanor of a Rangers D-man.
Henrik Lundqvist said of Ryan McDonagh:
“…he’s such a great skater, he can be aggressive in his game. It means a lot to the forwards because he can join the rush, but he also is really quick to recover if something happens.”
Blanking the New Jersey Devils Monday night at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers look to goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to put his roadblock in net. Monday night was Lundqvist’s 42nd shutout. When posting a shutout in Game 1, New York is 8-3 in playoff series. Lundqvist has been the story many times in the postseason, but in this series the defenders may take New York to the next level.
The Blueshirts have opened six of their last nine playoff series with a win in Game 1, and have posted a 32-11 series record when winning Game 1. This is the sixth time overall and the third time in seven years, the Rangers and Devils have met in the playoffs. In 2008, the two teams met in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, with the Rangers winning the series, 4-1.
Heidi has been a Rangers fan since the Gretzky years. While focusing on The Blue Line and hockey’s stalwart defenders, Heidi also connects with the human side of hockey. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or at her blog Don’t Cross My Blue Line.