No rest, no problem for Rangers, who outlast Devils in Game 1
If these playoffs have told us one thing, it's that rest is for wimps. For teams that had a lot of rest and relaxation coming in, the results the next series have been rusty and rotten.
There was little rest for the weary Rangers -- one day actually -- between their seventh-game defeat of the Capitals on Saturday and Monday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals with the Devils -- off for nearly six full days after their second-round win over the Flyers.
But hockey is not a great sport for idle reflection. The game itself is proof of that; players get a minute or two breather, then go right back out for the next shift. The fluidity can be its beauty. Better to keep things movin' this time of year. The team that sits around too much, with too much time to admire its press clippings, can very often succumb to a fatal loss of edge.
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead with a 3-0 win at Madison Square Garden, every goal coming in the third period when they were supposed to be tired. Believe it or not, Rangers coach John Tortorella was ticked off when asked about this after the game. Any presumption of fatigue for his boys assumes that he hadn't had this kind of thing all planned out from Day 1 of training camp.
"I don't know where you guys get all this stuff being tired. If we're tired this time of year, there's something the matter," Tortorella said to a question from legendary hockey reporter Stan Fischler. "We still have a month to play. So you might as well not ask me questions about being tired. We are ready to play. This club will be ready to play."
Hard to argue that. The Rangers did in fact look sluggish in this game at times, but not when you thought might be the case. After a scoreless two periods in which Henrik Lundqvist made some big stops -- including three in a row in one key sequence on Zach Parise in the second -- it was all New York in the third.
Dan Girardi got the Garden party started early with a slap shot from point at the 53-second mark. The goal came after Devils defender Bryce Salvador lost a puck as it entered the Devils' zone, then was a little too casual in trying to cover up for his mistake. Rangers rookie Chris Kreider grabbed the free puck and fed it back to Girardi, who boomed a slapper past Martin Brodeur.
"I think Girardi was calling for it, and I just tried to put it there," Kreider told reporters. "I looked up and knew both teams were changing and was able to make eye contact with (Girardi) early on."
The Devils never really challenged in the third period. They put just four shots on Lundqvist. New York looked like the fresher, faster team. Rest is for wimps.
"It wasn't our best two periods, but it was 'win a period, win a game,'" Girardi told reporters. "It might have been better for us, not sitting around thinking about it. If you're tired this time of year, there's no excuse."
Kreider and Artem Anisimov would hook up for an insurance goal Lundqvist wouldn't need at the 12-minute mark. With 25 seconds left on a power play that started because of a Steve Bernier boarding violation on Girardi, Kreider took Anisimov's nice backhand feed just across the Devils' blue line and beat Brodeur to the far post.
Anisimov would add the empty-netter. For Lundqvist, it was his second shutout of the playoffs.
"He played very well tonight," Tortorella said. "I'm not going to single him out; it's our whole team. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our conditioning, but more important, our mental makeup.
"I looked at our third period of Game 7 (Saturday), and I thought it was one of our best of the playoffs. And I think our third tonight was, too."
For the Devils, not getting on top of the Rangers early -- when they had the chances -- was the sad storyline.
As the game wore on, the Rangers started blocking everything in sight, finishing with a 26-15 edge in the category.
"It wasn't anything we weren't prepared for," Parise said. "We just have to do a better job of getting past the first guy."
The Rangers also outshot the Devils 35-21 and won 59 percent of faceoffs.
"We need to match their work ethic," Parise said.
The Rangers only have one off-day before Game 2 -- and it's a scheduled practice day, too. Not much time for rest and relaxation, in other words. Just how they like it.