That’s been the constant reminder for Blueshirts nation with game six tucked away as a big win for the Rangers. With the win, the Rangers will now compete in their first game seven at the Garden since 1994.
The beginning of the series saw the Rangers come out with a ton of energy in game one, only to see that energy drop off the map after Michael Del Zotto deflected in that dreadful goal against Henrik Lundqvist. After that game, the team lost Carl Hagelin to a three-game suspension, brought in top prospect Chris Kreider and lost Brian Boyle to a concussion. The Rangers lost two overtime games in that span and a game five at home.
Now though, the mojo has picked up and the way the team played in game six needs to stick. It’s the way they should have played this entire series. However, serious road bumps proved to have a significant impact on the team’s play.
I hadn’t expected Hagelin’s suspension would affect the team as negatively as it did. It obviously wasn’t going to be good, but the win after the suspension almost made it seem like things would be okay (even though the Rangers really did win by the skin of their teeth on that one). Hagelin’s speed is vital to a team that already isn’t that fast to begin with, and not having him around was a serious issue. Thankfully, the speed issue was rectified the second he got back.
While Hagelin’s return made life a little easier on the team, Kreider getting his first NHL goal was a big moment for the group. Now that he has it, Kreider can play with a little less pressure on his shoulders.
Even before Kreider signed his entry-level contract earlier this month, fans talked non-stop about how, since he’d won the NCAA title with Boston College as a senior, the next step was to bring him up to the club. Since his college career began, everyone affiliated with the organization has kept their eyes on him. Speculations as to when he would start in the NHL began as early as his second year at BC.
That’s enough stress on its own. It doesn’t help if the organization you’re walking into just happens to be one where its rookies produce the moment they start. I mean, if we want to go there and reminisce about some of New York’s finest…
Del Zotto was the one to start the trend of Ranger rookies producing early. Del Zotto scored in his second-career NHL game, the Ranger’s home opener against (ironically) Ottawa in 2009. Matt Gilroy (who’s now a Senator) scored his first NHL goal in his third NHL game. Artem Anisimov scored his first NHL goal right after that, his fifth (technically sixth if you count the one call-up the season prior) game. Derek Stepan got a hat-trick against Ryan Miller in his first NHL game. Hagelin got his first assist in his first game, his first goal in his second. Even Stu Bickel got an assist in his first game.
Honestly, I doubt Kreider knew all of this going into his first game. Maybe he knew that guys like Stepan and Hagelin produced early, but maybe not to that extent. Plus, your first game being a playoff game with a 1-1 series in a different city and trying to bring in the missing speed factor is more than enough for one person’s plate, right?
Although, it really did seem like a massive weight was gone once that goal went past Anderson.
Kreider is destined for great things, there’s no question about that. Now that one of the biggest landmarks of his career has passed, hopefully a more relaxed play can come from his end. And really, let’s hope that speed can make a big difference as these playoffs progress.