New York Rangers have another narrative to put to bed in these playoffs
The New York Rangers came into the Eastern Conference Final with the narrative that they haven’t faced a real goalie in these playoffs.
Since the Rangers only had a little over 24 hours between their Game 7 elimination of the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh and the start of Game 1 against Tampa, critics were out in force. Many sang the same song, that the Blueshirts only got this far because they’ve faced backups and third string goalies.
All of that luck was going to come to an end against the Tampa Bay Lightning and apparent future first ballot hall of fame goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Well, the New York Rangers pumped 6 shots by him on 34 shots and ended that nonsense.
Lightning rust is the new narrative for the Rangers
As the goalie narrative was obliterated after Game 1, a new one was born.
All the talk leading into Game 2 is about RUST.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were off for 9 days after sweeping the Florida Panthers so they were rusty. Expect them to come back and take it to these Rangers.
“We certainly didn’t have our best,” Steven Stamkos said. “It is what it is. We’re not a group that’s going to use that as an excuse. We have to be better.”
Of course, the Lightning have not lost two playoff games in a row dating back to 2020. They are currently on a 17-0 run coming off a loss which has those critics feeling really confident heading into Game 2 on Friday night.
One person who isn’t fazed is Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant.
“They didn’t beat us 17 times, they beat other teams,” he said. “We’ve just got to get ready to play our game and go play. We know they’re going to be good. We know they’re a great team. Everybody knows that, but it doesn’t affect what we’re going to do tomorrow.”
New York Rangers will be ready for Tampa
Coach Gallant, who finished third in Jack Adams voting also noted that Tampa may have been a little rusty due to the layoff and expects them to be much better.
“They’re going to be ready to play,” he explained. “You don’t win two Stanley Cups and not be ready to play at this time of the year. We expect their pushback, but we’re going to play our game and play the best we can.”
Tampa’s bench boss Jon Cooper basically reiterated what Gallant anticipates.
“It’s Game 1,” Cooper said. “We’ve been through this before. We’ve won series when we’ve lost the first game and won series when we won the first game.”
Let’s face it, this is the Conference Final and no one is going to surprise anyone. That excludes the Rangers critics who still think the team doesn’t belong here.
“They’re a good team over there,” Frank Vatrano noted after Game 1. “We can’t let our foot off the throttle. We just have to keep playing one shift at a time, one game at a time, stick to our game plan.”
The Rangers may be in uncharted waters after finally having a lead in a series, but their approach remains the same. Stay even-keel and take it one game at a time. The approach has worked thus far so why change it?
“It’s nice for the confidence to score some goals… It’s still just 1-0,” Mika Zibanejad said. “It’s a new game on Friday and we’ve got to get back to playing our game and try to take some positives from this game.”
One thing the critics seem to be dismissing is that the Blueshirts are on a seven-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden.
The building has been dubbed “The Jungle” for these playoffs and visiting teams are having a hard time handling the energy the crowd has been able to throw their way.
“We talked about experience with this group going into the playoffs but when I look around the room and the feel in that dressing room is super confident at all times,” Ryan Strome said. “I think the first series helped a little bit and then having to win Games 3 and 4, those are pretty must-win games and we did a good job. So, we can draw from those experiences. Our crowd’s gonna be great.”
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