Originally written on Blue Seat Blogs  |  Last updated 11/11/14

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 05: Brad Richards #91 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 5, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Stars 4-0. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Well, that was awesome, huh?  The Rangers are going to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1997 with a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Conference Semi-Finals.  Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist were the story in this one, as well as tremendous team defense from the Blueshirts.  Let’s break down the goals…

1-0 Rangers

  • Michael Del Zotto started this play by getting the puck deep.  Carl Hagelin used his speed on the forecheck to gain possession and began to move the puck around the net.  The forecheck caught 4 Capitals in the slot or below, which opened up the top of the offensive zone.
  • Hagelin slipped a pass to a trailing Richards, which caught Niklas Backstrom too low in coverage, and Richie blasted a slapshot under Braden Holtby’s left arm.  It was just the quick strike the Rangers needed.  First goal, got the crowd into it, just 1:32 in.

2-0 Rangers

  • The Rangers’ second goal originated in their own zone.  Michael Del Zotto made a great play on Alex Ovechkin, causing a turnover at the Ranger blue line.  Carl Hagelin quickly picked the puck up and led Marian Gaborik.
  • Gabby turned on the jets realizing the Caps were in the midst of a change and carried the puck into the Caps’ zone.  The defenders converged on Gabby’s shot from the high slot, blocking the wrister.  Unfortunately for them, they lost track of the puck in the slot and lined up a perfect screen for Michael Del Zotto.  DZ grabbed the puck in the slot and fired a nice little snap shot to the low stick side of Holtby.

2-1 Rangers

  • The cushion of Del Zotto’s two goal lead lasted for all of :38 seconds.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t see a camera angle which could keep up with the Caps’ transition on this.  They broke into the Rangers’ zone, their puck movement pulling the Rangers defense apart.
  • Derek Stepan was lagging behind the play (either due to a bad change or simply caught up ice, I can’t tell) which allowed Roman Hamrlik to drift into the slot and beat Hank with something of a knuckle puck.
  • There was tons of traffic in front of the net, and clearly Lundqvist was screened.  Fluky goal, but ulcer inducing none the less.

I feel like I should address Brian Boyle’s non-goal as well.  He realized he had the inside lane on Dennis Wideman, and took the puck to the net hard.  The puck ended up sliding underneath Holtby, as well as Wideman, and the puck ended up clearly across the goal line.  Before the whistle blew.  Unfortunately, the audio from the referee’s microphone was not functioning and we never got to hear the decision for upholding the call on the ice.

If they were using the logic that the ref had the intent to blow the whistle, I don’t think I buy it.  The whistle blew at least a full second after the puck had visibly crossed the line.  This also begs the question, what do we want to prioritize, the refs intent or the correct call?  If the ref lost sight of a puck which was loose the whole time, and intends to blow the whistle, do we uphold his erroneous call on the ice, or use the replay to get the call right?

The other possibility is that the refs felt Holtby was interfered with.  This possibility I can understand, even if it appeared Wideman was the interfering party.  The refs aren’t required to call a penalty to negate the goal, so I will be interested to see if this info comes out.  Probably moot since the Rangers won anyway.

Random impressions from the game

  • Unbelievable team defense tonight.  Tremendous execution on Washington’s top players, and were able to handle momentum surges with a ton of poise.
  • This was a big time experience game for a young team.  This one will build some character.
  • Is Brad Richards money in big games or what?
  • Easily one of Marc Staal’s best playoff performances so far.
  • While Hank didn’t have a ton of shots, he had several key saves when the game was 1-0.  Hopefully, this will put to rest his underserved reputation of not turning in big performances in the postseason.
  • Fantastic crowd tonight.  Dave and the Suit said it was out of control to be there live.
  • Oh, and the top line was absolutely money all game.

Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils gets underway Monday night at 8pm from MSG.  Looking forward to some “Marty” chants…

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