April 12, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers celebrate after winning the game against the Ottawa Senators in game one of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden. Rangers won 4-2. Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
The wild and wacky NHL playoffs continue Saturday, and among the eight series, only three higher-seeded teams hold leads, one of them being the New York Rangers. Albeit just a 1-0 advantage, the Rangers should use the results of these early-playoff affairs as a reminder that no lead is ever safe and you cannot take any game -- or period, for that matter -- for granted.
The Western Conference's top two teams are down 2-0, while the No. 3-seed Florida Panthers lost their first game. Most notably, though, in the Eastern Conference is that the fourth-seeded and preseason Stanley Cup-favorite Pittsburgh Penguins are down 2-0 to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Up 1-0, New York will host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m., a game that can be seen on NBCSN and MSG. The Rangers were not very good against the Senators during the regular season, going 1-2-1, but they proved that the playoffs begins a new season in Game 1, using Henrik Lundqvist's strong goaltending, capitalizing on turnovers and sticking to their defensive structure to fuel their 4-2 win. The Sens' two goals came in the second half of the third period as the Rangers scored four-straight unanswered in the tilt.
The Blueshirts are well aware that the Senators possess a gifted forward group and a defensive core headlined by Erik Karlsson, so they can ill-afford to make foolish passes out of their offensive zone or be careless with the puck without any on-ice support.
In Game 1, New York got scoring from its big guys -- Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, and that sort of production will need to continue as no team can surivive without its best players excelling. But it also got contributions from the streaking Brian Boyle, who had a goal, and Artem Anisimov, who was involved all night and had two assists. Carl Hagelin also had noticeably more jump to his game and was a great forechecker as a result.
The penalty killing was effective, killing off all three Ottawa power plays, but the man advantage was 0-for-4. Typically in a lot of close games, the Rangers' special-teams play will be huge in this game and throughout the playoffs.