At the start of the playoffs, all Ranger fans would agree that for the Blueshirts to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Henrik Lundqvist would have to be the best goaltender on the ice in any given game. While Lundqvist was good in Game 5, Ottawa’s Craig Anderson was even better as he stopped all 41 shots he faced in posting his second career playoff shutout.

While the Rangers had lots of chances to get on the scoreboard, Anderson has now stopped the last 65 shots the Rangers have taken going bacl to early in the first period of Game 4.

Truth be told, Game 5 might have been the Rangers best game of the series as it came the closest to being a full 60 minute effort. This game should probably have been the third to go to overtime had John Mitchell not messed up his assignment on the Senators first goal.

Rather than stay with his man, Jason Spezza, Mitchell peeled off to check rookie Mark Stone (who was making his professional debut) – even though Ryan McDonagh had Stone contained. With Mitchell losing his check, Spezza was home free to notch his first playoff goal in his last 19 games.

After being called by Coach Paul MacLean, Spezza responded with two goals and six shots after being held without a shot in Game 4.

It is no coincidence that Ottawa has one the last two games as their two best players have ended up on the scoresheet – Spezza with his two goals tonight and Milan Michalek with the first goal in Game 4.

Conversely, the Blueshirts are waiting for Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards to break free and score goals – something they have not done since Game 1. Discounting his horrendous pass/turnover that turned into Spezza’s empty net goal, Gaborik was engaged during the game and showed some good jump and showed a willingness to play a physical game.

It will be interesting to see how the Chris Neil Affair will play out. Boyle has a concussion and is out indefinitely. Following the game, Coach John Tortorella called it “dirty” and “cheap” and likened the hit tp the one Raffi Torres delivered to Marian Hossa and cost Torres as 25-game suspension. Let us not forget that Neil delievered a borderling knee-to-knee hit to Ruslan Fedotenko prior to Neil’s headhunting hit on Boyle.

Arthur Staple of Newsday tweeted the following quite from Neil, “The hit was clean… When you’re cutting thru the middle with your head down, you’ve got to expect to be hit.”

That would be true had Neil not cut across and led with his shoulder and nailing Boyle in the head.

Either way, the ball is now in Brendan Shanahan’s court.

If Carl Hagelin received a three-game suspension for what was termed a “premeditated” play, then Neil deserves the same suspension. Neil made Boyle’s head the primary point of contact and the hit came from the blind side – the exact two things the NHL is SUPPOSEDLY trying to legislate out of the game

The Rangers have shown the ability to bounce back from adversity all season long, a point that Brandon Dubinsky ame following the game.

“We have to try to find a way to it the hard way,” Dubinsky explained. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We have to make sure we’re focused on one 60-minute game of hockey. This team has been really good all year rebounding from tough hockey games like this.”

The road the Rangers face is not an easy one come Monday night. In 22 previous best-of-seven series that were tied at two games apiece, the team that won Game 5 went on to win the series 91% of the time. One notable excception was the 1994 Rangers who lost Game 5 to the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

On the plus side for the Rangers, they re not that far off. Their defense and penalty killing ar e at the top of their games. The Blueshirts must find a way to solve Anderson. During the post-game show on MSG Network, Billy Jaffe offered an interesting take on the Rangers offensive production tonight.

While Jaffe did concede the Rangers did a good jon of getting some traffic in fron of the Ottawa netminder, he noticed that most of the shots were “straight on”. Jaffe urged the Rangers to try and get Anderson to move more, especoially side-to-side as they attack. That would open up the Rangers for more rebound opportunities and leave Anderson, at times, at a disadvantage positionally on the? rebounds.

As for the power play, Torts needs to make them watch the first two power plays from Game 4 and them contrast them with the subsequent nine man advantages so the team can notice how they jus stopped shooting the puck. The Senators have become more aggressive in the penalty killing so the Rangers need to make on or two passes to get the Senators penalty killers moving and then start firing shots on goal – with as much traffic as Ottawa is throwing at Lundqvist.

The one part of their game that is not going to get better at any point during the playoffs is their faceoff percentage – especially now that Boyle is out of the lineup. What the Ranegrs need to do is work even harder on the assignments after the faceoff is lost. That means going as hard as possible to the point of they lose defensive zone draws, and it means getting inhard on the forecheck if they lose offensive zone draws.

The Rangers can no longer view this as best-of-seven series. They must look at Monday’s game as the seventh and deciding game. whatever it takes to beat the Ottawa Senators must be done.

We can expect that the Hagelin, Gaborik and Richards line will be reunited. If I were the coach, I would put Chris Kreider with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan and roll the dice that Kreider is ready to translate his collegiate success into NHL success. You can team Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan and Fedotenko as a third line with Michael Rupp, John Mitchell and Brandon Prust as the fourth line. Depending on the tenor of the game, I might flip[ Fedotenko and Prust.

I might even dress Steve Eminger for Stu Bickel looking to get a little more experience and a little more offense from the blueliners.

Above all, it doesn’t matter what the lines are or what the defensive pairing are, the bottom line is that Monday night’s game is one where the Blueshirts best players have to be their best players. Secondary scoring and contributions will be greatly appreciated, but the Rangers must rely on their to find a way to bring the series back to the Garden on Thursday night.

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