Last Updated: 3:48 PM, May 20, 2012
Posted: 2:16 AM, May 20, 2012
The Rangers have been a defense-first team all season long, but in the Eastern Conference finals, their defense has been their best offense.
Three of their eight goals in the series have been scored by defensemen, including two by Dan Girardi, who scored the game-winning goal yesterday in a 3-0 win over the Devils in Game 3.
Girardi scored the game’s first goal 3:19 into the third period. With the Rangers on a power play, he took a Brad Richards pass off a faceoff win and wristed one past Brodeur from just in front of the right circle. He also scored the game-winning goal in Monday’s 3-0 victory over the Devils, but didn’t have a reason as to why the Rangers defensemen have been so successful.
“I’m not really sure. Our game plan is to get the [defenders] in the rush and create some four- and five-man rushes. It’s happening that more shots are going in right now,” Girardi said. “We’re just trying to get the puck to the net and get it down to the forwards for tips and screens, and we’re just fortunate some of our shots are going in right now.”
That’s exactly how the Rangers scored their second goal of the game, 1:57 after Girardi gave them a 1-0 lead. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh threw a shot on net that Chris Kreider redirected in to make the lead 2-0.
“We’re getting the shots through from the point and eventually the forwards [and] there’s going to be some [deflections] off from them,” Girardi said. “We’re getting it back at the [defenseman] and they’re doing a great job getting in front and taking his eyes away, and it makes it a lot easier for the puck to go in.”
Marc Staal, who did not have a point yesterday but had an assist in Game 1, said defensemen are getting more chances with the clamp down on forwards, which he thinks has accounted for the Rangers’ blueline scoring 10 of their 34 playoff goals this season.
“I think in the playoffs, there’s not a lot of room for forwards, especially with defensive-zone coverage,” Staal said. “So whether we’re getting our shots through or joining the rush, a lot of times that’s when we create offense and help them out.”
Devils coach Pete DeBoer did not think the issue was the offensive defenseman.
“We gave up 20 shots and maybe five scoring chances the whole night,” DeBoer said. “The tendency when you lose a game like this is to microscope everything to death. We played a real good hockey game. We lost.”