Fri 17 May 2013
If the New York Rangers plan on advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals they better find a way to do within the framework of 60 minutes because their track record in overtime is becoming quite disconcerting. In dropping Game 1 to the Boston Bruins, the Rangers last three playoff losses have all come in overtime.
Conversely, the Bruins last three playoff wins have come via overtime.
The Rangers were steamrolled in overtime. I don’t know if it was Johnny Boychuk’s shot that rang off the post as the buzzer sounded at the end of the third period, Derek Dorsett’s interference penalty in the opening minutes, or a combination of both, but the Blueshirts were not a step slow – they were a couple of steps behind the play in overtime.
Coach John Tortorella pointed to Dorsett’s penalty was the key factor to the overtime domination.
“We never regrouped,” Tortorella admitted to Brett Cyrgalis of the NY Post. “It was a surge. We couldn’t stop it.”
Leave it to Torts to sum up the game as succinctly as possible.
‘‘I thought it was pretty even going into the overtime,’’ he said. ‘‘But we got spanked in the overtime.’’
The Bruins outshot the Rangers 16-5 in overtime and that didn’t even factor in the posts that Boychuk and Jaromir Jagr hit. Eight of those shots came on the Bruins power play – a man advantage that seemed to last the entire overtime.
When you factor in the Rangers and Bruins streaks along with Henrik Lundqvist’s 3-11 record in playoff overtimes, the Blueshirts need to get the job done during regulation.
Lundqvist’s overtime record in the playoffs is misleading because he can only control the defensive end of the ice; he has no way to control his teammates’ inability to score in overtime – and in regulation and especially on the power play for that matter.
Ah yes there it is again, the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The Rangers power(less) play has reached new heights in dragging the team down. The Blueshirts can survive without production from their power(less)play as long as their penalty killers keep their opponents off the board. Once they allow a PPG, all bets are off.
Quite frankly, I am sure you guys are as tired reading about it as I am writing about it, but when they do the postmortem on the Rangers playoff run it will be front and center. Right now the Rangers need their opponents to screw up in order to score a power play goal.
Looking ahead to next year, by hook or by crook, President/GM Glen Sather has got to get the power play unit either someone with a booming shot (like a Chara or Mike Green) or someone who can move the puck with a purpose (like UFA Mark Streit).
In six of the eight games the Rangers have played in the playoffs the team that won the game scored a power play goal. The only two times that was not the case was Games 6 and 7.
In going 0-for-3 in Game, the Rangers power(less) play hasn’t scored in its last 14 attempts and is a moribund 2-for-31 in the playoffs. Quite honestly, I can find five guys from a Men’s Rec league to produce those kinds of numbers.
As bad as the power(less) play was – and it was bad – there was enough blame to go around.
“We need to get good chances and create momentum,” Dan Girardi admitted to Dan Rosen of nhl.com. “We’ve got to get a goal on the power play. It’s a difference maker. We don’t get one and we lose the game. We definitely have to figure out something with that.”
Perhaps the Rangers might want to follow the advice Krug offered up when discussing Boston’s strategy with the man advantage.
‘‘The key to every power play is to get pucks to the net,’’ Krug told Howards Ulman of the AP.
As great as Lundqvist has been in the playoffs – including standing on his head in overtime – The King was a mere commoner on Boston’s first two goals. It is rare that one puck gets through Lundqvist in one game, never mind two.
While he has to stop Torey Krug’s shot on the power play, you could see trouble developing as the four Rangers penalty killers focused on the puck along the RW boards and completely ignored the weak side.
The real killer was Zdeno Chara’s shot that found its with through Lundqvist. Normally, giving up a goal to Chara from the point is understandable given Chara’s booming slap shot. However, the shot that eluded Lundqvist was a “knucklepuck shot” courtesy of the movie “D2: The Mighty Ducks”.
Afterwards, Lundqvist was lamenting his misplay of the Bruins game-winning two-on-one rush.
“I thought I made a bad decision,” Lundqvist told Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald. “I mean it’s a tough play, but I could play it better. That was a tough overtime for us. We didn’t really get going, and they came out with a lot of energy and created a lot of chances. I thought we played a pretty good game. We did, but special teams were the difference, the one at 1-0 and then, I mean that’s going to be the case these playoffs.”
As the Rangers look ahead to Game 2 on Sunday afternoon, they are going to have to work harder in a couple of areas if they want to prevent a repeat of their start of the first round.
Obviously, the Rangers special teams have to be better. On the penalty kill, they have to continue to monitor where Chara is at all times and make sure they don’t allow the Bruins to score when Chara is off the ice – like he was on Krug’s goal. They have to make sure they don’t get caught watching the puck and allow the weak side defenseman free reign.
The Blueshirts also have to remember to be smart and stay away from the undisciplined penalties. Of the Bruins four power plays, only Dorsett’s was the only that could be considered undisciplined but a case could be made that he needs to have better positioning.
You could make a case that Taylor Pyatt’s penalty for his on Boychuk was sketchy because the referees were not going to call a penalty until the Bruins penalty stayed down on the ice. If that was the case, Pyatt should have been hit with at least a four-minute penalty if not a major.
As Rick Carpiniello pointed out on his Journal News Blog, was that hit any worse than the one Jason Chimera delivered on Ryane Clowe or the one Alex Ovechkin put on Ryan McDonagh? Neither of those were deemed to be penalties; hence the problem with the NHL – inconsistent officiating within games and from game-to-game.
With that said, Pyatt has to know that if you can the name of the back of the player’s jersey you can’t run him, you gave to ease off bit and give him a bump instead of a hit.
It is the perfect example of why some in hockey circles are calling for players to be able to “wrap up” opponents instead of laying the smack down when they are vulnerable against the boards. The only problem with that idea is it adds another layer of “gray” area that NHL referees will have to navigate.
On the power play, the Rangers need to do the same thing they need to do at even-strength – get shots and goal and get bodies in front of Tuukku Rask. Rangers’ forwards spend too much time at the side of the crease rather than in front of it. In addition, far too many times the Rangers will set up their attack on one wing and the opposite forward is standing off the opposite post.
In other words, if the Rangers are coming down the RW side, the forward that is “around the net” is standing off the last post. As a result, a cross-ice pass has to go through two defensemen and the goalie. Instead, the weak side forward needs to get to the top of the crease or even the RW post.
The Rangers big guns have to fire in this series. Derek Stepan’s one-timer 14 seconds into the third period shows what happens when you put the puck on net … quickly.
While speaking with WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Thursday, Joe Micheletti stressed the need for the Rangers best players to be their best players.
“Your top players have to step up and be a factor …. These players are going to have to find their games.
The Rangers need to tighten up their play with the puck. According to Adam Rotter of the Rangers SNY Blog, the Rangers were charged with 17 turnovers, as compared to just four for the Bruins. The biggest Rangers culprits: Derick Brassard and Ryan Callahan.
It was Brassard’s ill-timed and ill-conceived cross-ice pass in overtime that caught Ryan McDonagh joining the attack which led to the Bruins eventual game-winning two-on-one.
Callahan might have had one of the worst games of his Rangers career. He just appeared to be a step late in trying to defend the Bruins cross-ice passes in the Rangers zone and was generally not up to his usual standards. You can expect that will not be the case in Game 2.
“We felt like we were right there,” the captain relayed to Cyrgalis. “We’ve dealt with this [losing in OT] before. It happened to us twice in the Washington series. We’ve got two days to regroup and we go right back at it.
Here are my random Ramblings from Game 1:
• Brad Marchand’s name enters the Rangers-Bruins playoff lore. The last time the two teams played an overtime game in the playoffs Jerry Toppazzini scored one of his nine playoff goals in 1958.
• The most famous of all Bruins overtime heroes against the Rangers is Mel Hill who truly earned the nickname “Sudden Death”. During the 1938-39 season, Hill scored just 10 goals. However, in the 1939 Semifinals Hill channeled his inner goal scorer as he scored three overtime game-winning goals against the Rangers. Two of those times Hill’s goals came in Triple OT, including the series winner in Game 7.
• Marchand’s goal was the first of the playoffs. The Rangers have to hope it is a harbinger for Rick Nash to start scoring. Nash was active last night and it was his rush that paved the way for McDonagh’s tying goal with 1.3 seconds left in the second period. In the final minute of the first period, Nash came down the RW and took a wrist shot rather than try another one of those infernal spinoramas – definitely a good sign.
• Stepan’s goal was the six the Bruins have allowed in the first two minutes of a period in their playoff games – thus making strong starts in each period a must.
• We had it pounded into our heads by NBC Sports that Jaromir Jagr is older player who needs to limit his shifts – especially late in games. Here is just how old he is – Jagr was the only player alive when the Rangers and Bruins last met in the playoffs on April 10, 1973.
• Okay who does Pierre McGuire have a bigger man-crush on: The Bruins 4th line (Gregory Campbell, Dan Paille and Shawn Thornton) or Brad Marchand? If the Bruins 4th line is the thing that is going to tip the balance of power in this series, then sign me up for a Rangers series win.
• Speaking of Marchand, the Rangers need to put bodies on both Marchand and David Krejci as a way to slow them down.
• While I am in bash NBC Sports mode, why would you not shift the Los Angeles-San Jose game over to CNBC (or even the NHL Network) while the Rangers-Bruins were battling in overtime? That is the problem when you have one network running your sport.
• I am not sure if it was coincidence, a specific game plan or just a matter of the flow of the game, but Boston sure looked like they placed an emphasis on attacking down the right side and then peppering Lundqvist with shots to the long side (i.e. the stick side).
• Another thing the Bruins were doing was looking to make long passes to get behind the Rangers defensemen. Given the Rangers’ blueliners for letting forwards get behind and for sometimes playing too wide apart, it is a smart strategy for the Bruins and one the Blueshirts will need to tighten up.
• The Rangers must take advantage of the three rookie Bruins defensemen (Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug). It was Bartkowski’s inability to get the puck deep that led to Stepan’s go-ahead goal.
• Speaking of three rookie d-men, Boston was forced to play three rookies on defense back in 1985 against Montreal (John Blum, Frank Simonetti and Mats Thelin). The Bruins lost that best-of-five series in five games.
• One final piece of advice for the power(less) play: more puck and player movement, more traffic in front of Rask, and more shots on goal. I will even accept deliberately shooting wide to avoid blocked shots IF the forwards know enough to go and get the puck and IF they know enough someone also needs to be in FRONT of the net, not to the side.