Game one always feels more important than it really is.
It’s not so much that the stakes are high, but rather that the game sets the tone for the rest of the series. It gives us an idea of how the two teams match up, and what we can expect from the next 3-6 games.
This first matchup between the Sens and the Rangers was crucial in determining whether Ottawa stood a chance in the series, and whether they even deserved to be where they are now. Many pundits had written the team off pretty much as soon as the matchup had been determined, but then again, they did the same thing in the first round. And as well as Ottawa performed against the Bruins, it wasn’t hard to chalk that up to injuries, bounces, and Boston generally not being a very good team.
Now, I’m not going to get ahead of myself and pretend this one win means that we’re going to win the series. There’s a lot of hockey left to be played. But what this game did prove to me is that the Sens are not wildly outmatched, as many people seem to think. They can beat the Rangers, if they keep playing like they did tonight.
From a Sens perspective, the first twenty minutes went about as well as they could have gone without resulting in a goal. Ottawa set a new franchise record in the playoffs by registering 21 shots on goal in one period - not bad for a team that isn’t exactly known for its offense.
The period was uncharacteristically lively, with some heart-stopping chances on both ends of the rink, many of which were caused by goaltender fumbles. The Ottawa power play looked to be back on track, despite failing to convert on three opportunities. By that I mean that the man advantage looked dangerous and resulted in a few good chances for the Sens.
Mark Stone got the best scoring chance of the night, when a rebound ended up in his feet and he couldn’t quite lift the puck in time to beat Lundqvist. I still can’t quite figure out if Stone or Lundqvist is more to blame for the missed opportunity, but it doesn’t really matter anymore since we won the game anyway.
Despite how well the Sens outplayed their opponent in the first frame, there was a certain sense of apprehension/despair among fans, and it was all because of one man: Henrik Lundqvist.
If this game taught us anything, it’s that Hank is the man to beat. If the Rangers win this series, it will be almost entirely because of him. None of the other Rangers looked particularly dangerous. Ottawa eventually figured out how to beat him, but there was definitely a time when we were all starting to lose hope.
Really, the entire period could be summed up by this timeless tweet from the LA Kings:
Stupid sexy Lundqvist.— #LAKings (@LAKings) June 14, 2014
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Ottawa Senators game if a great period was not followed by a decidedly Not Great one. Clearly invigorated by their goaltender’s performance, the Rangers came roaring back to score the first goal of the series, followed by a scary shift that looked like a Rangers power play but wasn’t.
Fortunately for the home team, that would end up being the best Rangers sequence of the night. Ryan Dzingel evened the score shortly afterward, finally scoring on a power play that has so far looked worlds better than the one we saw against Boston. Let’s hope this continues and the Sens don’t forget how to score again.
And just like that, Ottawa had control of the game. Though the Rangers’ speed was on display, Boucher’s trap system seemed to be working against their forwards. The Sens went into the third frame in their very favourite position: tied at one.
From there, it was pretty smooth sailing. The Sens continued to outplay their opponent, and finally got the game winning goal when the Captain made an absolutely incredible play to sneak the puck past Lundqvist.
Erik Karlsson is so good he scores from below the goalline. He’s so good he manages to get the puck into the net without it touching his own player, so that he gets credit for his first goal of the playoffs. This kid is insane. Don’t ever take that for granted, Sens fans.
Despite a late surge by the Rangers and an Ottawa penalty that resulted in a brief 6-on-4, the Sens held on to the lead to win game 1.
Yes, it’s only one game. Yes, Lundqvist terrifies me. Yes, I’m probably getting way too cocky and everything could very well fall apart in the next few games. But you know what? That was a damn good hockey game, and it’s a great feeling to know that our team stands a chance in this series, after hearing for a week that we’re lucky to be in the second round at all. Let’s enjoy it.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
What more is there say about this man? He is absolutely insane, and we are all lucky that we get to watch him play all the time.
Sens Hero: Ryan Dzingel
That goal was a long time coming. Let’s hope Dzingel’s finally found his scoring touch.
Honourable Mention: Viktor Stalberg
He didn’t register any points, but Stalberg was all over the ice. I was very impressed with his game.
Sens Zero: Cody Ceci
I hate to complain about him all the time, but he was just awful tonight. He and Phaneuf both looked completely unable to handle the Rangers’ speed, and Ceci made a few very noticeable mistakes. At this point, it’s very hard to justify keeping him in over Wideman.
Sens (Almost) Killer: Henrik Lundqvist
I sense that this is going to become a problem.