Yes, be thrilled they dominated the Penguins in the first period and overtime. Yes, be thrilled the Mats Zuccarello–Derick Brassard–Benoit Pouliot line continues to play great hockey.
And yes, continue to dream that your team will reach their second Eastern Conference final in the last three years.
However, please, please be realistic about one thing. If the Rangers don’t improve upon some major flaws in their game, they will most certainly not get away with it the way they did against the Philadelphia Flyers.
First, their best defenseman, Ryan McDonagh, absolutely must get back to form. He has not looked right since getting hurt in a game against the Vancouver Canucks, and it has shown in many uncharacteristic lapses. In Game 1, one huge lapse led to Pittsburgh’s first goal.
Second, we can talk all day about how Rick Nash does not have a goal in the playoffs so far. But imagine if another goalless star, Sidney Crosby, were a Ranger. How much would the fans be getting on him? The difference between both right now is that Nash is at least making things happen on the ice. Crosby has been a non-factor period in seven Penguin playoff games.
It all means one thing: Crosby is due. If he gets hot, the Rangers had better have an answer for him.
And third? What else? That abysmal power play.
You can change the coach and change the system, but it’s a simple fact. The New York Rangers have historically had bad power plays. They were 0-for-4 last night, and only one of them actually looked decent.
The fact is they have not scored on their last 25 power plays. Twenty-five! They’ve gotten away with this long enough, but if they expect to beat the Penguins, they must channel the attitude and tactics that made their power play successful in the regular season.
Oh, and by the way, they also have to stop taking periods off. See: the second period last night, and several periods in the Flyers series.
Getting cocky is not an option right now for Ranger fans. They got away with their flaws against the Flyers, but they won’t against a better team in the Penguins. We’ll see if these trends begin to change in Game 2.