Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 11/6/14

The New York Rangers successfully accomplished their main goal on Thursday night, and that was to jump out to a 1-0 series lead against the Ottawa Senators in front of their home crowd at Madison Square Garden. While at times they completely dominated that contest, there were others in which they were clearly on their heels and allowing the Senators to press. It was not close to a sixty-minute effort from the Blueshirts, and thankfully they got away with it. However, there are assuredly some changes they will be looking to make before Game 2 tonight to better themselves moving forward in this series. 

New York's most dangerous weapon in Thursday's series opener was their forecheck. When it was executing properly, the Rangers found themselves with many opportunities coming from point shots with traffic in front of the net. It also forced the Senators into taking penalties and committing simple defensive mistakes in their own zone that benefitted the Blueshirts. The only problem was that the Rangers' forecheck was not anywhere near consistent from the start of the tilt to the end. 

Obviously the Rangers cannot be expected to press offensively for the entire game, but there were long stints of time in which the club did not pursue the puck in the offensive zone at all, and was actually being outshot by quite a margin. This is when head coach John Tortorella used his timeout to get his team settled and refocused, and then soon after it was back to the forecheck for the Rangers. During that time, which was a good portion of the second period, the Sens came awfully close to finding the back of the net several times, but Henrik Lundqvist preserved the lead for his team in goal. 

Had Ottawa scored there, the outcome of the night could very well have been different at the final buzzer. Point being, the Rangers cannot afford to inexplicably take their foot off the pedal offensively at any point against this opponent. In the playoffs, offense is always the best form of defense, and that proved true when the Blueshirts actually established a forecheck in Game 1. If they can find ways to do that more often in Game Two, there's no telling just how many pucks they will be able to put behind Craig Anderson. There's no doubt that the Rangers are the better team below the hashmarks in this match-up. 

In addition to getting in on the forecheck more frequently, the Rangers also need to make fewer trips to the penalty box. Yes, the officiating was not the greatest on Thursday, but that's not something that is in the team's control unfortunately. Discipline is a huge factor come playoff time, and the Rangers were guilty of having little of it at certain points during the first game. With Ottawa's powerplay being as lethal as it was during the regular season, New York does not want to play with fire here by taking too many penalties. 

Granted the penalty-kill was perfect on the night on Thursday, they still do not want to spend too much time on the kill because it not only chips away at the time on the clock that they could be spending on the forecheck, but it also hands the opposition momentum that can be used against them. 

The final few adjustments that the Rangers will look to make in Game 2 tonight should be in the defensive zone. For one thing, the Rangers found themselves chasing the puck around the zone far too often on Thursday. The Senators can whip the puck around at a rapid pace, especially when Erik Karlsson is out on the ice. Therefore, the worst form of defense the Rangers can use against that is the "run to the puck" approach, where everyone is sort of gravitating to one spot in the defensive zone. 

This is how both Ottawa goals in the third period were scored. The Rangers had one too many players cheat towards the puck, leaving a Senator all alone around the net area as a result. The puck carrier then found their open teammate, who beat a then helpless Henrik Lundqvist. 

I said going into the series that defensive positioning was key for the Rangers against Ottawa. I thought it could've been much better than it was at times on Thursday. 

And this may sound crazy, but I do think the team is capable of bringing their physicality up another level. I’d say only about 40-percent of the lineup was throwing the body around in Game 1, and I know for a fact that they can get much better participation in that department than just 40-percent.

I also believe that had a lot to do with the fact that it was a first-time playoff experience for many, so hopefully the jitters will be history when the puck drops tonight.

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