In the first round of the playoffs, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said that Ryan McDonagh needed to find “another level.”
In the second round, Vigneault was even more blunt, saying of his top defenseman: “Obviously, he hasn’t played very well.”
But last night? Last night was different. McDonagh had just registered another two points, making it six in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final against Montreal.
What did his coach have to say about that?
“When Ryan’s gap is good — and obviously he’s got tough match-ups because he’s always playing against the other team’s best line — when his gap is good and he’s battling hard in his one-on-ones, usually the offensive part of his game is there, and it’s been very good the last two games.”
McDonagh, meanwhile, owed his improved play to simplifying his game.
“If I have a second or two to make a direct pass, make it,” he said, per TSN. “But I was just looking for stick blades too much at times and it’s tight checking in the playoffs so you want to make sure that you’re not giving forwards an opportunity to grind you in your own zone. So the simple plays will work a lot in the playoffs and I’ve been able to make good reads and that’s helped me.”
It’s a good sign for the Rangers that McDonagh is playing like an elite defenseman again. Most Stanley Cup champions have a dominant blue-liner, and with two more wins over the Canadiens, the 24-year-old will be vying for a title against either Duncan Keith’s Blackhawks or Drew Doughty’s Kings.
The Nashville Predators’ 4-3 Game 1 win against the St. Louis Blues makes it difficult to use “perfect.”
You could get away with using that word, mind you, as the Predators followed up their surprising sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks by going up 1-0 against the Blues in St. Louis. Still, the ride was so bumpy in the third period, it’s probably wiser to focus on the fact that Nashville is unbeaten.
Because, yikes, that third period was a roller coaster for Nashville.
via Natural Stat Trick
P.K. Subban scored a goal and two assists in the first 40 minutes to help the Predators bring a 3-1 lead into the final frame. The Blues absolutely dominated play in the third, however, briefly tying the game as they put immense pressure on Pekka Rinne & Co.
Ultimately, the Predators received a game-winner from an unlikely source in Vernon Fiddler, gaining a 1-0 series edge.
Even so, few will talk about “mystique” after that shaky finish.
For one thing, both Rinne and Jake Allen allowed goals that they’d like to forget. Also, both squads experienced lopsided periods; Nashville dominated shots in the second (15-8) while the Blues almost doubled-up the Preds in the third (11-6).
Nashville also seems likely to play without rising rookie Kevin Fiala, who was hospitalized after an absolutely horrifying crash into the boards.
It was a weird and often wild – sometimes nasty – contest, with the Predators ultimately coming out on top. There’s plenty of intrigue heading into Game 2, which airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)
Update: With both games likely to run simultaneously, note that Ducks fans can watch on NBCSN in the Anaheim market while the game is also available via streaming links below.
In addition to that, Ducks – Oilers is slated to begin on NHL Network.
This tweet explains it in additional detail.
The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.
We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.
Here’s what you need to know:
Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)
Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online)
The St. Louis Blues and their fans showed class in how they reacted to Kevin Fiala‘s very, very scary injury during Game 1.
Still, these are two physical Central Division rivals, so you expect to see some nastiness here and there between the Blues and Nashville Predators.
One moment that will likely divide onlookers came when Predators tough guy Austin Watson got a shot in on Vladimir Tarasenko, at least briefly hurting the world-class sniper.
It’s unlikely to be a big deal since Tarasenko seems to be OK, but there may be some debate here. On one hand, there are those who believe Watson got away with a cheap shot; on the other, some seem to imply that there was some embellishment. Maybe it’s even a combination of the two?
Either way, the Predators enter the third period up 3-1, so St. Louis will likely ask Tarasenko to focus on getting revenge by scoring goals.
In the first round, P.K. Subban was dominant against the Chicago Blackhawks, but mainly if you look at “fancy stats.” There’s nothing wrong with two assists in that sweep, but those aren’t jaw-dropping numbers.
You don’t need to dig deep to see his impact on Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues. A mere glance at the box score – or a chance to see his blistering shot – and you’ll realize that the Nashville Predators defenseman has been a nightmare for Jake Allen & Co. so far on Wednesday.
Subban seemingly scored his first postseason goal with the Predators to make it 1-0, but Colin Wilson was actually credited with the tally.
No bother there. Subban gave the Predators a crucial lift shortly after player resumed following Kevin Fiala‘s horrifying injury, getting that first Predators playoff goal with another booming shot.
Subban managed to draw a slashing penalty on Scottie Upshall and also sent another huge shot to set up a James Neal goal. There’s no mistaking that P.K. has played a huge role in Nashville going up 3-1 so far; the Blues need to find some answers, and fast.