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Rangers Welcoming Physicality With Habs

Blueshirts Able to Withstand Hostile Bell Centre Environment

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

MONTREAL -- Neither the Rangers or Canadiens finished in the top-10 in hits during the regular season.

But like everything that occurred in the regular season, that was thrown out the window Wednesday night when the two teams combined for 98 hits in Game 1 of their best-of-seven, first-round playoff series.

From the start, bodies were colliding and both sides were finishing their checks. Dan Girardi leveled Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty with an open ice hit, and Brendan Smith got wrestled to the ice by Andrew Shaw.

All in good fun.

"That's what happens," Smith said of the increased physicality. "I even feel like our boys, we hit even more. Sometimes that first five minutes, it's not even like there's a puck alive out there. You're trying to finish and get yourself engaged. That stuff is going to happen."

But 98 hits in a 60-minute contest? Is that sustainable?

"Yeah," Smith said bluntly. "That's the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's why people love to watch at this time."

It's easy to see why both sides were ready to play from the start of the game after the pregame festivities that included loud renditions of both national anthems. And while Montreal certainly benefitted from the home crowd, the Rangers too fed off that early energy as well.

"I was amped up," said Brady Skjei. "I think most of the guys were. You see that and both teams have got to get amped up. If you're the home team, I'm sure you're even more amped up because it's your home, but I think we were pretty amped up seeing that too."

Montreal came out firing with eight of the game's first 10 shots on goal, but Henrik Lundqvist stopped everything that came his way, and was a big reason the crowd was able to be kept at bay.

"I think this building is a lot like other buildings," Lundqvist said Thursday. "They're waiting for something good to happen and get the momentum going on their side. When you take that away from them, yeah it's not going to be as loud."

Smith said as pro athletes, the players cannot get caught up in the moment and must tune out the environment to focus on the game. So can the Rangers feed off the crowd in Game 2? 

"If they're quiet, yeah," Smith said with a laugh. "Then you know you've done a good job."

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