|Photo from bleacherreport.com|
Wait a second, is he really writing a hockey article? Oh yeah, you read that title correctly. This is in fact my first hockey post since two years ago when I was a freshman in high school and a bad writer. That cringe-worthy, one paragraph rant stood alone in my NHL tab until my 2013 Awards come out.
Oh how times have changed. Back then I was talking about a playoff series between the Flyers and Penguins, while my Rangers were going through a wild playoff push of their own, which included a triple overtime winner by Marian Gaborik in the second round against the Capitals in Game 3, which ended at 12:14 AM, almost 5 hours after its 7:40 start. It also featured a game-tying goal by Brad Richards in Game 5 with 6.6 seconds left (in a game the Rangers went on to win), the last time that his existence didn't anger me. Eventually, they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils, and we're not talking about that.
But now times have changed, and the Rangers are in the Stanley Cup Finals, becoming the first team that I root for (Mets, Jets, and Knicks, if you haven't been paying any attention at all to my articles) to qualify for their league's championship game/series since I began watching sports in 2004. That same Marian Gaborik is playing for the opposing team, and Brad Richards is sort of back on track after being demoted to the fourth line, and even a healthy scratch during last year's postseason.
Unfortunately, the Rangers are trailing in the series, after losing Game 1 in overtime. Let's take a moment to re-live Dan Girardi's fateful tumble that cost us the game.
Cry, I'm here for you.
We still love you Dan.
So how will the team respond in the second game and throw themselves right back into the series? You heard it throughout the conference finals, and in Game 1: speed. The Blueshirts have had the speed advantage over every team they've played so far in the postseason, and they used it at times in the opener, but need to do so more often.
Carl Hagelin, beautiful hair and all, may just be the fastest skater in the league, which is backed up by the fact that he actually won the Fastest Skater Competition at the most recent All-Star weekend, in 2012. He'll probably get an opportunity to successfully defend that title in 2015. Chris Kreider combines that speed with his strength, making him quite the weapon. Derek Stepan, Benoit Pouliot, and Martin St. Louis can also fly if given the chance.
Expect to see more two-line passes than usual as those guys will break away on the rush, allowing a teammate to find them streaking up the ice. Another option, which I saw them utilize against the Canadiens once with Kreider, and I found very interesting, would be to lift the puck as one of the speedsters enters the offensive zone, giving them a good look at the goal if they beat their man. That's a very sound strategy for a team that already dumps the puck in at a frustratingly high rate.
And, because he's a crazy risk-taker, which is why we all love him, don't be surprised if Ryan McDonagh gets involved on those offensive rushes, out in front of everyone else.
Along with continued great goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist, this is allow the Rangers to even it up before returning to New York.