When the Rangers left shuffled out of Buffalo, things were not looking too good for the Blueshirts even though they responded with a solid Game 2 after a clunky Game 1 which got away from the rangers in the space of four minutes.  What a difference a week makes!

The Rangers return to Buffalo with series knotted at 2-2 on the scoreboard and tied at 1-1 in video replays.  Seriously, outside of some hairy moments during the last half of the third period on Tuesday, the Rangers have been able to control the tempo of the game – a must if they are to counter the Sabres’ speed.

The Rangers were so effective in countering the Sabres, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff changed his game plan and asked his team to try and grind it out more and rely less on finesse.  If the Sabres are going to continue that strategy, then the rangers will be making plans for Ottawa or New Jersey.

So how will the rest of the series go?  Many hockey experts (and actually experts in all sports) will agree that defense wins championships – and they would be right to an extent.

It has always been my contention that in order to win in the playoffs you have to score goals.  Almost every team knuckles down on defense when playoff time comes around.  As a result, goal scoring is at a premium.  The Rangers-Sabres series is the perfect example.  Both teams are struggling to find offense in a series that has seen three of four games be decided by one goal.

However, this one-goal phenomenon is not unique to the Rangers and the Sabres.  According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 37 of 60 games have been decided by one goal – a rate of 61.6 percent.  That is the highest percent of one-goal decisions since the 1941 playoffs when 12 out of 19 games (63.2 percent) were decided by one goal.

As a result, the Rangers’ special teams must continue to excel in this series.  The Rangers’ power play is 5 for 19 (38 percent) against the Sabres while the penalty killers are 22 for 25 (88 percent) against Buffalo and 38 fir 42 (90.5 percent) in the playoffs.

The heat will be on the Blueshirts’ offense and Coach Tom Renney because Buffalo has the last line change and you can expect Ruff to match lines and defensive pairings to eliminate Jaromir Jagr’s effectiveness.  As a result, the Rangers are going to have to work harder at getting more traffic in front of Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller and they must do a better job of converting on their odd-man rushes.

The bottom line is the Rangers need to win at least one game in Buffalo if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.  Their best shot might be in Game 5 because they have a little momentum going their way.  If the Rangers can find a way to win their first game in Buffalo since November 2005, you can expect the Garden to be rocking on national television on Sunday afternoon.

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