New York Hockey: Brandon Dubinsky
With a 4-1 win over the Capitals on Sunday, the Rangers played their 24th game of a lockout-shortened 48-game 2013 season. How do the Blueshirts look at the halfway point? ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang breaks it down with her mid-season report card:
Adding a star like Rick Nash to a team that finished with the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference last year only heightens expectations. And although the Rangers are beginning to look like the team that grinded and gritted its way to the Eastern Conference finals last spring, we still haven't seen their best yet. But all hope is not lost, as it took a solid six weeks for the team to find their groove last season. The biggest question is whether the Rangers can re-assert their rugged, hard-nosed style of play that made them one of the toughest teams to beat last year. Even in a compressed schedule, there is still time.
Nash has lived up to his billing as the type of elite player that can push a team to the next level, and that's never been more apparent than now. Sidelined with an injury for four games last month, Nash has been on fire since returning to the lineup. The big man has registered 11 points (six goals, five assists) in the six games he's been back, and his presence completely changes the dynamic of the offense. He's helped jump-start the team and some of its top performers, namely Brad Richards, who snapped a 15-game goal drought last week. However, the team is still seeking more from Richards and Marian Gaborik, who have solid numbers but can be invisible at times. Averaging only 2.54 goals per game, the Rangers need better production from the entire supporting cast (case in point: Brian Boyle) if they are to remain in the playoff picture.
Boasting three of the best defenseman on their blue line in Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal, the Rangers have been pretty stout in their own end. They rank sixth in the league in goals against with 2.33 per game and have received significant contributions from guys like Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman as well. Otherwise relatively healthy, the team did suffer a blow to their back end in losing Staal to an eye injury, although it is not believed to be career or season-threatening.
Yes, the power-play has improved, as of late, but the unit has been abysmal through too many significant stretches this season. Ranked dead-last in the league at times, the Rangers (23rd, 15%) still lack a true power-play specialist and you can bet that a right-handed defenseman that plays the PP will be a top priority as the trade deadline approaches. The team's penalty kill has been pretty good, especially considering the personnel lost from last season. Without Brandon Prust, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko and Artem Ansimov, the Rangers still rank 12th in league with an 83.3% success rate. Adding versatile fourth-liner Darroll Powe was a shrewd move for the front-loaded Rangers, as was the signing of veteran center Jeff Halpern. Both players help to fill the void left by the departure of some of the team's "glue guys" from last season.
It's hard to top last season for Henrik Lundqvist, but the reigning Vezina Trophy winner has remained steady for the Blueshirts. With an 11-8-1 record on the season, Lundqvist is eighth in the league with a .921 save percentage and 10th with 2.24 goals against average. The 31-year-old Swede , still seeking his first shutout of the season, hasn't stolen games like he did last year but he's still been very consistent for a team that hasn't always bailed him out with much offense. Backup Martin Biron has also been solid in relief, with a 2-1-1 record, .923 save percentage and 2.18 goals against average.
Granted, the lockout robbed him of conducting his notoriously-difficult training camp regimen, but coach John Tortorella still doesn't seem happy with the team's level of mental and physical conditioning. Some of that is circumstance. Some of that is the players themselves. But he takes some responsibility as well. Tortorella still has some challenges ahead handling some of the team's struggling stars in the streaky Gaborik and Richards, but he's still one of the top coaches in the league with his ability to coax the most out of his players.
The Garden will get a Nash after all. After the New York Knicks fumbled their chance to acquire PG Steve Nash earlier this summer, the Rangers sealed the deal to acquire winger Rick Nash from Columbus at what appears to be a very affordable price -- forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, blue line prospect Tim Erixon and a first-round pick. As Nash gets ready to slip off his blue jacket for a blue shirt, here’s an early look at the potential impact:
What it means: The New York Rangers have landed the summer’s hottest trade-market commodity in what many pundits believe to be a steal of a deal. With the Blueshirts badly in need of scoring after averaging just 2.15 goals per game during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Nash -- a seven-time 30-plus goal scorer -- will instantly infuse some offense into what was sometimes a goal-starved lineup. The trade also adds to the Rangers' current arsenal without depleting its steadily growing stockpile of prospects (recently ranked 13th in ESPN Insider’s Organizational Rankings). With D Tim Erixon the only major young asset heading to Columbus, the Rangers’ Stanley Cup window should remain open even after Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik -- New York's projected top line once Gaborik returns from a torn labrum -- hit the down slope of their careers.
What’s the risk: It seems to be pretty limited in the short term. The Rangers don’t appear to lose much offense from last year’s Cup contender (26 regular-season goals) and bring in one of the foremost snipers in the league. The long term gets a little more dicey. Nash is under contract for six more seasons at $7.8M per year. Should Nash’s production decline, that cap hit could be rather unpalatable in the years to come. Balancing that risk, however, are young guns like Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider, who could provide substantial offensive production at very reasonable cap hits ($2.2M combined next season per CapGeek.com) during their early service time.
Fond farewell: A fan favorite, Dubinsky -- and his intriguing facial hair -- is on his way to Columbus. Brought to the Rangers in the 2004 draft, Dubinsky teamed with fellow 2004 draftee Ryan Callahan to form the core around which these new-look, built-from-within Rangers were constructed. His grit on the ice became emblematic of the Rangers' character as a team, playing with a combination of sandpaper, skill and desire that won over the Garden faithful and helped return the Rangers to the top of the Eastern Conference. The 2011-12 season marked a bit of a rough stretch for Dubinsky, as he finished with just 34 points in 77 games, a 20-point dip from the previous campaign.
Erixon’s expectations: Based purely on potential, Erixon has the highest ceiling of any of the Rangers heading to Columbus. Regarded as one of the top defensive prospects in hockey because of his solid two-way game, the Rangers acquired the Swedish-born blueliner from the Calgary Flames last June for a pair of second-round draft picks and prospect Roman Horak. With established defenseman Marc Staal on the shelf to start the season, Erixon was pressed into duty a little ahead of schedule, logging an average of 13 minutes over 18 games and recording two points and a minus-2 rating. While the future could be bright for Erixon -- particularly if he forms a top pairing in Columbus with 2012 No. 2 overall pick Ryan Murray -- the Rangers were dealing from a position of strength here. After the trade, the Blueshirts' blue-line corps still includes mainstays Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto, with prospect Dylan McIlrath and 2012 first-rounder Brady Skjei waiting in the wings. And that doesn’t even figure in the questionable status of Michael Sauer (concussion).
The irony in Erixon’s inclusion in this trade is that it was widely believed he and his representation, um, facilitated his trade to the Rangers -- where his father, Jan, played -- by refusing to sign with the Flames. It wouldn’t be surprising if somewhere in Calgary they’re discussing the nature of karma right now.
What’s next?: Rumors this morning mentioned that the Rangers were not only chasing Nash, but also veteran free-agent wing Shane Doan. Per a source with knowledge of the team's thinking, Katie Strang reports that the Rangers are still in pursuit of the longtime Phoenix Coyotes forward. As it stands, the Rangers have helped shore up a serious question mark heading into the 2012-13 season and figure to remain firmly entrenched as a contender for the Stanley Cup next June.
With the current collective bargaining agreement due to expire Sept. 15, the NHLPA will meet this summer to determine priorities in hammering out a new pact while players' livelihoods hang in the balance.
Rangers player representative Brandon Dubinsky expressed confidence that an agreement can be reached.
"Obviously on the heels of playing, I'm sure there are going to be some discussions coming up. With me being the [NHLPA representative] for this team, moving forward, I think there is going to be some more discussions and stuff like that," Dubinsky said. "The big thing is, we just want to make sure that we find a way to get a fair deal done and we get a deal done, because that will be fair to the fans and the people out there."
Dubinsky said he thinks both sides will be looking to avoid a work stoppage like last time, when the entire 2004-05 season was forfeited.
"I'm confident that we'll be able to make that happen, especially after sort of how big a disaster it was the last time around," Dubinsky said. "I'm sure that both sides are a little more anxious to find a way to get something done. We'll be ready to play next year."
Many other Rangers hadn't even had time to consider the possibility of a jeopardized 2012-13 season with their postseason exit so fresh.
"I haven't thought about it, and I don't mean that taking it lightly," alternate captain Brad Richards said. "I've just been so enthralled that that'll come up as the summer goes. It's something I'll have more time to think about as this kind of wears off."
Said veteran Mike Rupp:
"We've obviously had some meetings with the PA, but I don't think we're really thinking about that in this room. You prepare and you go about it, take the same amount of time you normally take off, then you go about it as the summer progresses. We'll start meeting with the union and start talking about where things are at."
Those who will witness and experience labor negotiations for the first time plan to, as second-year defenseman Ryan McDonagh said, "remain informed to be able to make the best decisions."
Beyond gathering information, McDonagh said he will approach this season like business as usual.
I"ll just continue to prepare and train as if September 16 is our first day of work," McDonagh said. "That's the only way you can do it."
Could Brandon Dubinsky provide the jolt the Rangers need?
Based on Wednesday's optional morning skate, the 26-year-old forward may be ready to play for the first time since suffering a right foot injury in the series finale of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Ottawa.
Coach John Tortorella declined to discuss the lineup, but did concede that his offensively-sluggish team could use a shake-up.
"We need something to happen for ourselves. We'll try different things. I'll give you that," Tortorella said. "But it's still a matter of just getting it done. At least that's the way I feel about it. So we'll see where it goes."
Should Dubinsky return, it appears that fourth-line center John Mitchell will be scratched to make room in the Rangers lineup.
Dubinsky's grinding, hard-nosed game is tailor-made for the playoffs and could be just what the Rangers require in generating some energy and jump against the high-flying Devils. Dubinsky has 10 goals and 9 assists in 32 career games against New Jersey and, although he's had a disappointing season, has had previous success in the postseason.
In 22 playoff games before this season, Dubinsky had seven goals and eight assists.
The Rangers will also return tough guy Brandon Prust, who missed Game 4 while serving a one-game suspension for his elbow on Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov. Prust had played in all 99 games for the Rangers this season before being slapped with the ban. His return will mean either defensemen Stu Bickel or Steve Eminger will be scratched.
"It's our focus right now," said center Brian Boyle. "That's what's ahead of us and that's what's most important."
For all the credit given to the Devils' aggressive forecheck and puck pursuit, Boyle thinks the Rangers can prove themselves capable of carrying the play as well. Uncomfortable with being characterized as the passive of the two clubs, the Rangers sound ready to augment their attack.
"We feel that when we're successful, we're a high-pressure team, too." Boyle said. "We forecheck and even when we're defending, it's time and space. That's what we need to focus on, getting back to how we need to play."
Even coach John Tortorella, who scoffed at a question earlier this season about the importance of the first 10 minutes of the game, conceded that the team's lack-luster starts needed to be addressed.
His club found itself down two goals less than 12 minutes into play in Game 4 and struggled to match the Devils throughout the duration.
"There's no question that Jersey, right on through the playoffs, not just our series but right on through the playoffs, they have blitzed teams and gained momentum," he said. "Momentum is a big part of playoff hockey, so there's no question we'd like to get that on our side right away tonight."
Although Tortorella declined to discuss any potential lineup changes, forward Brandon Dubinsky (right foot) may be available to play for the first time since sustaining the injury in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
After serving a one-game suspension for his elbow on Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov, Rangers bruiser Brandon Prust will return to the lineup tonight.
The Rangers have struggled to score in the Eastern Conference finals, with their top six forwards combining for just four goals. When asked what could be done to get the top six going, Tortorella mentioned an alternative solution.
"Pray," Tortorella said. "I don't know what else to tell you. We're going to keep on trying to play, pray and hopefully something good happens to them."
The Rangers have scored nine goals in four games, but the top two lines, minus rookie Chris Kreider, have not played up to par when it comes to scoring goals.
Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan have yet to score a goal in the series, while Ryan Callahan has just an empty-netter. Kreider has been the Rangers' best offensive player in the series with his three goals.
The Rangers' bottom lines have not been effective either, with just a pair of goals from Artem Anisimov and Ruslan Fedotenko.
DUBINSKY UPDATE: Brandon Dubinsky (right foot) skated with the team Tuesday, but the team still has no update about his status. Dubinsky said each day his foot gets better and he feels like he's on the right path. He hasn't played since Game 7 against the Senators.
"Of course I want to play each and every game, especially here in the playoffs," Dubinsky said. "But again I’ve got to make sure I'm at a point where I'm going to help the team and not hurt the team.
"[I've] just got to stay focused on that and try and do the best I can."
Prust was hit with a one-game suspension Sunday for his elbow on Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov in the Rangers' 3-0 win on Saturday.
"I'm disappointed that I'm, obviously, not playing. It's always disappointing when you don't get to be out there with your team," Prust said after Monday's morning skate.
Prust said he felt like his clean record was taken into consideration -- he has incurred only two elbowing penalties in his 301-game career -- and understood the decision.
"I definitely didn't violently attack anybody but I still got my elbow up and we're trying to get that out of the game," he said.
Although the return of injured forward Brandon Dubinsky would make for a seamless transition, the 26-year-old is not yet ready to play. He has been sidelined since suffering a right foot injury in Game 7 of the Rangers' first-round series against Ottawa.
"This team doesn't do percentages, I'm not sure if you've talked to Torts or not. It's usually a 'yes' or a 'no' and for tonight, it's a 'no,' " Dubinsky said. "We'll keep going, keep working on my conditioning, and it'll keep feeling better and hopefully we'll get to a place where I can be in the lineup."
Bickel, who was a healthy scratch in Game 3, will likely skate as a forward as he has done previously this season with his team in a bind.
And while his return could be one of seamless timing should he be ready to play Monday, when the Rangers will likely have a hole to fill assuming Brandon Prust earns a suspension for his hit on Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov on Game 3, he was cryptic when asked about his availability.
"I'm going to follow Torts' rules again," Dubinsky said. "No timeline."
It appears unlikely Dubinsky could play after only one full practice, even in the wake of the team's pressing lineup needs. The Rangers will probably opt instead to use either defenseman Stu Bickel or Steve Eminger as a forward, as they have done in the past.
Regardless, Dubinsky seemed encouraged by his progress and said he's happy to be around the team again as they prepare for Game 4 against the Devils.
"It's nice to be back with the guys, nice to shoot some pucks against a goalie, and it just feels good to be around and get the chance to jump back on the ice."
The Rangers' captain has just six points in 16 playoff games, notching three goals and three assists. He last scored a goal in Game 4 against Washington, and his last assist came in Game 5 of that series. In the first two games against the Devils, he has just two shots on goal.
While the team has struggled collectively on offense, Callahan wants to break out.
"It's tough, I want to contribute more offensively, there's no secret to that," Callahan said Friday. "I think the big thing for me is concentration on the other parts of my game right now and making sure I'm not cheating to create an opportunity or jumping too early. Just keep working and it will come. This is a tough time of year to be struggling offensively but I have to keep with it and keep going."
Callahan, who scored 29 goals and tallied 25 assists during the regular season, said he doesn't want to try to think too much about his struggles. He talked about placing himself in front of the net in hopes of a "greasy" goal. He's scored just one goal in the past 12 games.
The forward wants to shoot the puck more, without compromising the other facets of his game. Callahan mentioned being able to block shots and being responsible in the defensive zone.
"I think sometimes when guys are struggling to score they get away from the other parts and try to cheat too much and that's going to do nothing but hurt you," Callahan said. "I have to stick with it and keep going and eventually it's going to break here. It's just a matter of time."
POWER PLAY: The Rangers have scored 11 of their 34 playoffs goals on the power play, but head coach John Tortorella has not been impressed. The Rangers are just 2-for-8 against the Devils, but those two goals are 40 percent of their offense in the series.
"I think it's been pretty crappy at times," Tortorella said. "The power play is a funny thing. Special teams are a funny thing, even when there are struggles sometimes you find a way. Sometimes when you move the puck well and it's working, you don’t score. We scored a couple obviously and we've got to come behind that with some 5-on-5 goals."
DUBINSKY ON ICE: Forward Brandon Dubinsky skated Friday for the first time since suffering a right-foot injury in Game 7 against Ottawa on April 26. He wore a non-contact jersey and did not practice with the team. Tortorella gave no indication that Dubinsky is close to returning to the team. The Ranges face the Devils in Game 3 on Saturday.
"No update," Tortorella said. "He was able to get on the ice but other than that there's no other update."
"No, I can't say," he said with a conspiratorial grin. "I've been trained the right way."
The 26-year-old has not resumed skating, however, making it unlikely he'll be available at any point during the team's Eastern Conference Finals match-up against the Devils. What does that mean? Dubinsky will have to keep watching his team from the sidelines, a gut-wrenching task for the fiery competitor.
"It's obviously tough. You feel a little bit disconnected from it because you don't have those...I mean, you do, you have your own emotions. It's probably harder for me to watch the game than it is for them to play. I know [Saturday] I was probably the most nervous guy on the team and I was watching it."
"It's very tough because those guys are out there battling and giving everything they can, the emotions they have when they play and the emotions they have when they don't win a game, it makes it tough, not being a part of that," he continued. "It's exciting to watch us win and get to the next round, so it gives me hope. It allows me to have something to keep working for and looking forward to -- trying to get back and helping this team continue winning."
For Dubinsky to play again this post-season, he will have to hope the Rangers can knock off the Devils to advance to the Cup finals. Given his desperation to get back, he'll be rooting as hard as anyone.
"It's unfortunate not being able to play and I feel like I was ready to try and help this team win and go on a deep playoff run," Dubinsky said. "Lucky enough for me, we've been doing that without me in the lineup. I think I can help this team so it's just a matter of trying to get back as fast I can so I can try and contribute and I can help this team win."
Uphill battle: According to ESPN Stats & Info, no team since 1987 (when the playoffs went to a seven-game format) that has been extended to seven games in each of the first two rounds has gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Both the Rangers and Capitals will play their 14th games Saturday.
New arrival: Rookie goaltender Braden Holtby, 22, doesn’t seem to crumble under pressure, but he faces his biggest challenge yet. He and his fiancée, Brandi, welcomed the birth of their first child Thursday, just two days before the biggest game of his life.
Rookie response: Promoted to the team’s second line with center Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan in practice Friday, rookie Chris Kreider hopes to respond after being dropped to the team’s fourth line after a couple of gaffes in Game 4 last week. Kreider has been limited to 6:57 and 6:06 and in Games 5 and 6, respectively.
Date with Devils: After disposing of the Philadelphia Flyers in five games, the New Jersey Devils have been patiently awaiting their conference finals opponents. Is another Hudson River clash in store? The Devils have faced the Rangers twice since the lockout -- they lost to New York in 5 games during the 2008 quarterfinals and swept them in the first round two years earlier.
Offense needed: Besides the ailing power play, which went 0-for-5 on Wednesday in D.C. the Rangers could use a boost in even-strength goal production as well. The team has scored only one true 5-on-5 goal in the past two games and their offense ranks last among the five teams still standing in the playoffs.
Out of boot: Injured forward Brandon Dubinsky (right foot) shed his walking boot and looked to be making progress, although he politely declined to discuss his timeline. Given the time missed -- he has not resumed skating -- it appears unlikely he would be available at any point during the Eastern Conference finals should the Rangers advance.
Beagle questionable: Center Jay Beagle, who missed Game 6 with a lower-body injury, is a game-time decision, according to Caps coach Dale Hunter. Should Beagle be unavailable, veteran pivot Jeff Halpern will replace him in the lineup for the second straight game.
"It just feels different," Rupp said after the Rangers' morning skate. "Like it's a birthday or something, just a special day on the calendar. You approach it in the same way but we all know what a special night and opportunity it is for players to play in a Game 7."
Rupp has played in some memorable deciding games -- he tallied the clinching goal to secure the Stanley Cup for the New Jersey Devils in 2003 -- and knows what to expect from the nerves and emotions.
But he witnessed a calm group following the team's morning practice -- Bob Marley was humming from the dressing room speakers -- and believes that to be a good sign heading into tonight's test.
"It's important to be loose and joking around and our team has a lot of that going on, so that's a good thing," Rupp said. "I found when I was younger, I'd kind of gauge the older guys and see how they were. I think you could go out and get too fired up, so you have to channel that in a certain way."
Rupp is not the only Rangers veteran with a handful of Game 7's on his resume; Ruslan Fedotenko has also played in five and boasts a pristine 5-0 record with three goals and one assist.
Although goaltender Henrik Lundqvist did not participate in the team's optional morning skate, as he usually does, coach John Tortorella said he was "just dandy."
Washington's Jay Beagle, who missed Game 6 with a lower-body injury, is a "game-time decision" according to Caps coach Dale Hunter. Should he be unavailable to play, veteran pivot Jeff Halpern will replace him in the lineup.
"I'm not sure if Ryan Callahan said two words on the bench during the game," Tortorella said on Thursday's conference call with reporters. "It's what he does on the ice."
Callahan, the very embodiment of the team's black-and-blue identity that was on full display in Game 3, finished the game with a power-play goal, four hits and five blocked shots in 41:48 of ice time. The 27-year-old set the tone with his play, but also bolstered the team's spirits between periods in a vocal form of leadership that has evolved in his first year as captain.
"I'm not sure if two years ago he would've felt comfortable in that situation," Tortorella said. "But in between periods in that locker room, his voice was heard."
Tortorella said he was impressed by the response of his entire team, particularly the young players, in digging deep and finding a way to win under such adverse circumstances. He called it "a positive note," but said he didn't want the team to lose perspective.
"I just don't want us to get too carried away, because it's part of it," he said. "It's a good lesson for us early. We're probably going to have to do it again."
Although Brandon Dubinsky made the trip with the team to D.C., he does not appear to be nearing a return. The 26-year-old forward has not skated since suffering a leg injury in Game 7 of the quarterfinals. He watched Game 3 from the press box while outfitted with crutches and a boot on his foot.
Tortorella would not divulge any lineup changes for Game 4 although it is possible he may choose to use defenseman Steve Eminger against his former team in place of seldom-used blue-liner Stu Bickel. Often the odd man out when Tortorella chooses to shorten the bench, Bickel's limited role was even more pronounced in the wake of Wednesday's epic battle that spanned more than four hours. He played only three shifts for 3:24.
The 6-foot-6 center took part in the Rangers' optional practice Sunday in Westchester, his third straight day of skating since sustaining the head injury in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Boyle would not nail down a timeline, but said he has improved with each day.
"You can't really predict what's going to happen, so I'm trying to be honest with myself every day and it's been getting better every day," Boyle said. "I know it's boring, but we'll see how it feels tomorrow."
The Rangers have played the last three games without Boyle, although it is possible he could be available for Game 2 on Monday. Boyle said he has experienced no setbacks since resuming physical activity and is optimistic about returning soon.
"I want to get back out there," Boyle said. "It's just tough. What's smart and the right thing to do and what you want to do don't always match up. I'm optimistic, to hopefully get back soon."
There appears to be less optimism, however, regarding the status of Brandon Dubinsky. The 26-year-old forward, who was sidelined in Saturday's 3-1 win over the Caps with a lower-body injury, did not practice Sunday. He is unlikely to play in Game 2.
The loss of Boyle and Dubinsky -- both of whom are key faceoff men -- has put more pressure on the team from the circles. Top center Brad Richards was forced to take 24 of the team's 50 draws (he won 12) while 21-year-old pivot Derek Stepan took 14 (he won 7). Against the Capitals in Game 1, the Rangers finished with a 52% percentage from the face-off circle -- an area that will likely be a key factor in a tight series with an emphasis on puck possession.
"Obviously there needs to be a concentration. It's a very good faceoff
team that Washington has," said coach John Tortorella. "I think it was a heightened concentration when you don't have Dubi and Brian Boyle out there. For the most part, I thought we did a pretty good job."
Of the eight teams remaining in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, only the Devils have a lower faceoff percentage. The Rangers are 46.3% from the faceoff circle while Washington has posted a 50.8% through eight games.
With all the game-planning the series will require, faceoffs may not get the necessary attention from the team's coaching staff. Tortorella said he'd like to see players take it upon themselves to improve.
"We try to do it, but there are just too many different things you need to cover during the year," he said. "That's when a player needs to take a little onus on his own and get some work at it."
Last year's Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins team posted an impressive 52.0% faceoff percentage in 25 games
Recap | Box score | Photos
What it means: 20-year-old Chris Kreider tallied his second game-winning goal in three games and finished with his first multi-point performance of his young NHL career as he led the Rangers to a 3-1 win over the Caps in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The game started out slow, but the Rangers turned it on midway through the third period with two goals that ignited the restless crowd at Madison Square Garden and gave the team a 1-0 lead in the series. Kreider snapped a 1-1 tie at the 7-minute mark of the third and set up Brad Richards' insurance goal 90 seconds later. Rounding out a big effort from the Rangers' young guns, second-year center Derek Stepan also recorded his fifth point in three games with the primary assist on Kreider's second goal of the playoffs.
Not-so-great Number 8: Invisible in the first game of the series, Alex Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet and taunted by the New York crowd. In a timed chant picked up from Senators fans last series, the Blueshirts faithful jeered the Russian star beginning at the eight minute mark of each series. Ovechkin has been limited to five points over the past eight games.
All tied up: Brooks Laich executed a perfectly-placed saucer pass to find Jason Chimera in front with less than four seconds remaining in the second period. Chimera buried the puck to convert on the 2-on-1 rush and tie the game heading into the second intermission.
A-OK: Artem Anisimov snapped a scoreless tie with 7:22 to play in the second, burying a wraparound attempt to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 12:38.
Scoreless first: Compared the frantic pace of Thursday’s Game 7 at the Garden, the opening frame of the second round seemed a little subdued. Both the Rangers and Capitals combined for only ten shots total in a scoreless period. Of the Rangers’ four first-period shots, none came from forwards: defenseman Ryan McDonagh had three while fellow blue-liner Marc Staal registered the other.
Boyle, Dubinsky out: The Rangers were without injured forwards Brian Boyle (concussion) and Brandon Dubinsky (leg) Saturday. Boyle, who returned to practice with the team Friday, has not played since Game 5 of the quarterfinals. Dubinsky appeared to suffer the injury in Game 7 against the Senators on Thursday. Coach John Tortorella said there was “no update” on either player.
Eminger up front: With the Rangers missing two forwards, defenseman Steve Eminger returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering an ankle injury on March 15. The 28-year-old was used as a forward, however. He skated on the right wing with center John Mitchell and Mike Rupp.
Up Next: Rangers vs. Caps, Monday at 7:30 p.m.