Thu 19 Apr 2012
To paraphrase, and expound upon, noted philosopher George Santayana, “Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it – that is until the Rangers repeat enough of their mistakes to lose their series to the Senators.”
It is puzzling hot a team that made its bones during the regular season by playing disciplined hockey can become so undisciplined that are making the same mistakes from game-to-game and within games.
One could say that since it is the playoffs, the competition is much better. That might be the case, but I think the root of the problem might stem from the increased stakes at hand.
During the grind of an 82-game schedule, it is easy to see how an opponent could become frustrated by the Rangers style of play – almost to the point of exasperation. However, come playoff time every game takes on added importance which forces an opponent to bear down and focus and overcome the frustration and exasperation.
Of course, the Rangers inability to put away Ottawa has become the biggest repeated mistake the Blueshirts are making. At a time when they should keep their foot on the gas pedal, within moderation, they are letting up on the gas and easing the seat back.
It was somewhat understandable in Game 2 because the Rangers were hunkering down late in the third period to defend a one-goal lead. Game 4 was a different animal altogether because the Rangers seemed to expect two goals would be enough after Henrik Lundqvist shutout the Senators in Game 3.
The ironic thing is the game started out about as well it possibly could for the Rangers as they capitalized on their early power play chances as they were able to win faceoffs, maintain puck possession and do something they don’t do enough on the power play – SHOOT THE PUCK!
Just as quickly as the Rangers righted their power play, was just as fast they went back to their old ways and repeated past mistakes. The shots stopped coming and the Rangers spent more time fighting to hold the puck than they are attacking the Senators’ net.
Leave it to the Rangers to go against their own conventional wisdom come the playoffs. Rick Carpiniello of the Journal News posted an interesting fact on his Blog. The Rangers were 25-2-4 during the regular season when they scored power play goals. During the playoffs, the Rangers are 0-2 when they score a power play goal.
In the end it was an ineffective power play that paved the way for the Senators to open the scoring as the Rangers lost track of the penalty time remaining that led to Matt Carkner leaving the penalty box and keying an odd-man rush.
One mistake they kept making that didn’t cost them last night, but bears watching for the rest of the series, was the Rangers habit of looking to make cross-ice diagonal passes (especially on the power play). That type of pass is a recipe for intercepted passes and breakaways against.
The biggest Game 4 mistake cost the Rangers a pair of goals against – and eventually the game. The Rangers had defensemen caught deep on Ottawa’s first goal (Marc Staal) and game-winning goal (Ryan McDonagh).
Once the game went into overtime, one of the teams was going to end a negative streak. The Senators win ended a seven-game home playoff losing streak at the Scotiabank Place. The Rangers overtime loss is their seventh straight overtime loss in the playoffs.
The biggest concern so far is that the only time the Senators have led in this series is when they have scored their overtime goals. If the Rangers are unable to maintain the control of play when they have a 2-0 lead, how are they going to cope and respond if/when they fall behind?
Even with the two goal lead, the Rangers never seemed interested in putting that extra nail in the Senators’ coffin. Not only did the Blueshirts let Ottawa off the hook, they sat back and allowed the Sens to take control of the game – again.
The Rangers can’t be content to sit back in defensive postures as Ottawa piles up offensive zone time. The Rangers have been at their most effective in this series when they are able to maintain possession of the puck – an absolute muss if they want to keep the crease-crashing Sens out of Lundqvist’s way.
The best way to accomplish those tasks is for the Rangers to ramp up their forechecking, which should increase their offensive output while slowing down Ottawa. When the Rangers are aggressive on their forecheck, they win. When they aren’t, they lose.
When you factor in shots on goal, blocked shots and shots that go wide, the Senators out-chanced the Rangers 85 to 49. If you are wondering why the Rangers look so tired during stretches of the game, you need to look no further than that telling statistic. It also helps explain how, after scoring four goals in Game 1, the Blueshirts have managed to score just five goals in the next three games.
Looking forward, the Rangers have to realize that they need to play with a sense of urgency for 60 minutes, or longer, if a game happens to go into overtime.
They also need to get more offense from their star players – especially during five-on-five play. While Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards did rack up a pair of assists in Game 4, they are not producing enough offense in terms of goals.
Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky must take a page out of Brian Boyle’s playbook and elevate their offensive games. Both players have the ability to impose themselves more on the game.
After watching the way the Senators are congregating around Lundqvist, one has to wonder if the Rangers would have been better off with Dylan McIlrath making his NHL debut in the playoffs.
Given the way the referees clamped down during Game 4, both teams can expect the same treatment for the rest of the series. As a result, special teams’ play just got exponentially more important.
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