Welcome to the latest edition of Rangers News & Rumors. The New York Rangers turned in a dominant effort during Game 1 on April 18 as they emerged victorious over the New Jersey Devils, 5-1. They set the tone with Vladimir Tarasenko‘s goal at 4:58 in the first and took a 2-0 lead by the end of the opening period. The Rangers quieted the Devils fans in the Prudential Center while giving their own fans in attendance reasons to cheer.
First impressions mean a lot, and the Rangers came out strong during Game 1. Let’s look at the significance of New York’s shot-blocking and more in the latest edition of Rangers News & Rumors.
The Rangers Neutralized the Devils’ Offense
The Rangers limited the Devils’ top players from creating pressure in their zone several times throughout the contest. New York made sure Jack Hughes did not capitalize on his chances and gave him limited space to maneuver. The Devils went 0-4 and created zero rebounds on the power play.
Barclay Goodrow led the Rangers with 3:57 of ice time and blocked two shots on the penalty kill. His exceptional ability as a defensive forward tends to be overlooked during the course of an 82-game schedule. However, during the postseason, statistics such as blocked shots and faceoffs won become more scrutinized when examining a game’s outcome. The 30-year-old won seven of his 11 faceoffs for a percentage of 63.64%.
As a team, the Rangers excelled, with seven players having more than one shot block. The Devils, in comparison, had only three players that finished with more than one blocked shot. Adam Fox contributed four blocked shots, further establishing himself as one of the league’s elite players at his position.
Head coach Gerard Gallant mentioned the significance of the Rangers’ blocking shots in the opening frame, “in the first period on the (penalty kill) we blocked a lot of shots and that really set the tone for the guys on the bench. (They) did the little things to win the hockey game.”
Hughes had five giveaways during the contest, including three on the power play. The Rangers had a good defensive scheme in place to cause him to turn the puck over. If they can force him into making mistakes moving forward, New York will be in a better position to win the series.
Lindgren Scored a Key Goal
Toward the end of the second period, the Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere had a goal disallowed due to his stick being above the height of the crossbar. However, under a minute later, Ryan Lindgren scored to put New York up 3-0. It was demoralizing for the Devils’ hopes of getting back into the game trailing by three goals. If New Jersey scored the third goal of the game and cut the Rangers’ lead to 2-1, it would have given the Devils momentum.
Fox commented on the timing of his defensive partner’s goal, “when he’s able to contribute like he does, it’s always huge for us. It was a big goal to make it 3-0. He does so many other things and when he’s able to contribute in that sense, everyone gets a little boost from it,” (from ‘Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren scores key goal in win over Devils,’ New York Post, 4/19/23).
Shesterkin Continues to Be Dominant
Igor Shesterkin was his conventional self throughout Game 1 as he stopped 27 of the Devils’ 28 shots on goal. He allowed Hughes to score on a penalty shot with under three minutes remaining in regulation. The Rangers helped their netminder with 23 shot blocks which minimized New Jersey’s offensive opportunities.
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If Shesterkin continues to play well, the Rangers have a huge advantage at the most important position. He has shown the ability to be their best player since last season.
Rangers Need to Be Prepared for A Different Devils Team
The Rangers expect the Devils to come out strong to start Game 2 on April 20. New Jersey will aim to set an aggressive tone early to help them even the series.
Devils head coach Lindy Ruff suggested in his postgame comments following Game 1 that “we had guys that did not handle the puck very well early.” The players who did not participate in a playoff game before the first game of the series now know what to expect. He cited “nerves and jitters,” as affecting the club during the contest and encouraged his team to look toward Game 2.
Game 2 X-Factors
With a strong postseason, Filip Chytil can show why it was shrewd for the Rangers’ front office to offer him a contract extension previously during March. He assisted Lindgren’s key goal and scored an empty net tally in the game’s final minutes. He won 10 of the 13 faceoffs he took for a percentage of 76.92%; only Devils’ center Michael McLeod had a higher faceoff winning percentage during the contest.
Goodrow showed what makes him an underrated player for the Rangers during the first game of the series. He is a good penalty-killing forward that contributes offensively on occasion. He does not shy away from getting physical or refrain from getting in scrimmages.
The Rangers are off to a good start but need to put Game 1 behind them with the goal of taking a second consecutive road game from the Devils. New Jersey will come out strong and look to take an early lead during Game 2. If New York can maintain their strong team defense and shot-blocking in front of Shesterkin, it will increase their chance of going up 2-0. However, the indication is the Devils learned from their mistakes in the first game and will make it difficult for the Rangers to win two straight contests at the Prudential Center.