Sat 25 Apr 2009
If you were ever going to draw up a game plan to defeat the New York Rangers, all you have to do is study what happened in Game 5 last night in Washington because the Blueshirts followed that game plan right down to the final word â€“ which just happens to undisciplined.
Coach John Tortorella tried to send his team a message about accountability and discipline by benching Sean Avery after the Rangers agitator took two bad penalties in the final 10 minutes of Game 4. Of course, that plan backfired as the Rangers continued their undisciplined ways â€“ right down to their coach who blew a fuse in the third period.
Whether he was goaded or not, Tortorella was 100% wrong for throwing a water bottle into the stands in the third period and then following that up by grabbing a stick and pointing it at the fans behind the Rangers bench. Expect Colin Campbell to do to Tortorella what Torts did to Avery.
With that out of the way, letâ€™s take a look at that three-pronged game plan.
Step 1 â€“ Take an undisciplined penalty in the opening minutes to derail any chance of a quick start. Check â€“ Scott Gomez takes a retaliatory penalty at 1:16 of the first period.
Step 2 â€“ Let the Rangers inefficient power play continue to struggle. Check (in a big way) â€“ Not only does the power play not produce a goal in four chances on the night, it gives up a shorthanded goal five minutes into the start of the game.
Step 3 â€“ Henrik Lundqvist turns back into a mere mortal. Check â€“ Matt Bradleyâ€™s second goal of the game from below the right circle pretty much ended the game by the time it was 12 minutes old. A team that has only scored three goals in the last four games is not going to erase a 2-0 deficit, especially when the power play is zero for its last 18.
Friday nightâ€™s game is as bad as it gets. Contrary to Joe Micheletti who kept repeating that it did not feel like a 2-0 game, Washington was not the team waiting to be had â€“ it was the Rangers who were waiting to be had. Even if Micheletti were correct, the Rangers were in no position to take advantage of everyone.
“Something has to give with our top guys. I’m not trying to insult them. We have some great guys in that room,” Tortorella related to Howard Fendrich of the AP. â€œThis is a game where your best players have to be your best players, and it won’t happen until our best players are our best players – not kids.”
The Rangers made the fatal mistake of giving a desperate team a chance to get back into the series. The best time to eliminate a team from the playoffs is in your first chance. The longer this series goes, the harder it is going to be for the Blueshirts to close it out â€“ despite the post-game words of Bruce Boudreau.
“They only have to win one. We have to win two. The pressure’s all on us,” the Capitals described to Fendrich. “You look at the odds, the odds definitely don’t favor us.”
The worst part is the idea the Rangers knew they had to step up their play and they failed miserably. They did not heed the advice their captain offered up after winning Game 4.
“I think we should go in there thinking we’re down 3-1,” Drury told Larry Brooks of the NY Post. “We have to be as desperate as we can to match their intensity.”
“We have to match them.”
As the game unfolded, it was evident that Druryâ€™s admonition would go unheeded.
“We weren’t as ready as we needed to be,” Marc Staal said to Steve Zipay of Newsday. “We’ve got to score at least two goals to win against these guys . . . but we couldn’t find a way to do that.”
The question to ask is why weren’t the Rangers ready? Was it the coaching staff? Was it the players? Was it a combination of both?
In the end, verything that could go wrong did go wrong last night for the Rangers. If there was a bad play to make, they made it. On the first goal Derek Morris falls down at the point and Drury tries to step up on Bradley at center ice, rather than play the angle.
Lundqvist makes his first mistake of the series and the Rangers were down 2-0.
However, Alexander Ovechkinâ€™s highlight reel goal in the second period boiled down the Rangers night. The Blueshirts were too busy trying to poke check the puck rather than step up and play the man â€“ which was indicative of the Rangers lack of physical play while the game mattered.
Letâ€™s face it; the only thing the Rangers did right all night long was go to the right locker room at the end of each period. Their effort, or lack thereof, was totally not acceptable.
Simply put, the Rangers cannot afford to play from behind in this series. Each player needs to take a long look in the mirror and find that something extra they had in the first period of Game 4. Once they find that something, they need to go and produce a 60 minute effort â€“ something they have not done in the playoffs as of yet.
In a previous article I mentioned that momentum is like a pendulum and the key to winning is limiting the pendulum swings. Unfortunately for the Rangers, that pendulum is swinging too high.
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