Thu 3 May 2012
Early this morning the New York Rangers settled all family business in respect to the streaks that have been haunting them. The Rangers triple overtime victory in Game 3 wiped clean two losing streaks: the seven game playoff overtime streak is history as is the five game playoff losing streak at the Verizon Center. Marian Gaborik’s game-winning goal at 12:15am ended a stretch f eight games without a goal.
I don’t think the Beatles had this game in mind when they recorded “A Hard Day’s Night”, but it sure became the anthem for Game 3. Quite honestly, the Rangers didn’t win the game – they survived it.
Henrik Lundqvist pretty much summed up the feeling for all Ranger fans.
“Usually when we score I’m so excited that I scream, but I was too tired for that,” The King explained to Larry Brooks of the NY Post. “I was just, ‘Oh My God, Oh My God, it’s over.’
“I felt like it was never going to end.”
Washington had their chances to continue the Rangers losing streaks as Alexander Ovechkin and Dennis Wideman each hit posts and Troy Brouwer missed the net when he was left alone about five minutes into the first overtime.
Of course, the Rangers had a chance to end it in double overtime, but Mike Rupp’s shot hit Brian Boyle’s backside as he was screening Braden Holtby. Overall, it was a tough night for Boyle who partially blocked a shot with his face and then had his other end nearly cost the Rangers a victory.
The only thing more fitting would have been to have played this game on April 29 – a date which features prominently in Rangers mystique – as mentioned by Andrew Gross of The Record.
In 1971, Pete Stemkowski’s goal at 1:29 of the third overtime sent the Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks to a seventh and deciding game. Interestingly enough, Stemmer won Game 1 with a goal just 1:37 into overtime.
On April 29, 2007, Michal Rozsival’s shot from the right point at 16:43 of double overtime proved to be the game-winner against Buffalo – the last time the Rangers had won a playoff overtime game prior to Game 3.
Last night’s/early this morning’s marathon was the losing game in Rangers history since March 21, 1939 when Mel Hill scored at 19:25 of the third overtime period as the Boston Bruins eliminated the Rangers in seven games. Hill earned his nickname, “Sudden Death” for his three overtime winners in that series. Hill also tallied a triple overtime winner in Game 1 of the series.
The Blueshirts did set a record during that series by becoming the first NHL team to force a seventh and deciding game after losing the first three games of a series.
The Capitals are not without their own overtime playoff history. Four times Washington has ventured into triple overtime or beyond and four times the Caps have come up losers. In addition, the Capitals lost all four of those series as well.
The main question to ask is how will both teams respond when they meet for Game 4 on Saturday afternoon?
The NHL did both teams a favor by adding an extra day off between Games 3 and 4. While it was done for television purposes, it turns out to be a blessing – especially for the Caps.
I am not a big believer in momentum carrying over from one game to another, but if Game 4 was scheduled for Friday I have to believe that the Rangers would have a big advantage. While key Rangers logged incredible amounts of ice time, the mental toll of losing a triple overtime game would weigh more on the Capitals then extra TOI on the Rangers.
Even though the extra day helps Washington in terms of putting the loss in perspective, I can’t say that I agree with their coach in terms of how he characterized Game 3.
“Both teams went through it. It’s a game where they both played the same minutes, same players, same game,” Coach Dale Hunter told Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times. “We’re always in the same boat. So it’s just another game then.”
Of course, it is easy for a veteran of the NHL wars like Hunter to take an even-keel approach. It is different among the players, especially the younger ones.
“That’s extremely, extremely disappointing,” Karl Alzner relayed to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post. “Whenever you lose in overtime it sucks, but when you lose in triple overtime it’s even worse. We had so many chances and they either blocked it or [Henrik] Lundqvist came up with the save, or we hit a post. That just makes it even more frustrating.”
Rangers Coach John Tortorella is going to have to rethink some of his lineup decision as we approach Game 4. He can’t afford to dress Stu Bickell if he is only going to give a token four or five minutes of ice time. If he does not have enough confidence to give Bickell 12-15 minutes of ice time, then he needs to find a defenseman who he trusts.
It doesn’t matter if that defenseman is Steve Eminger, Jeff Woywitka, Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath or even if they have to place Wade Redden on re-entry recall waivers, but the Rangers can’t have their sixth defenseman seeing less than four minutes in a game that goes 114 minutes.
When asked about the situation during the post-game press conference, Tortorella did not duck the question.
“You get into a situation where you ice Bick, and you just know this is going to go on for awhile, but it is an awful tough situation to put Bick into after he is sitting for awhile so we made the decision just to stay with the five [d-men],” Torts admitted.
If Bickell is going to continue to see reduced ice time, and Tortorella trusts no other blueliner in the organization, then the Rangers should call up the best faceoff man the Connecticut Whale have.
The need to use all 18 skaters at some points in the playoffs is a certainty given the way the playoffs become grind – especially the way the Rangers play. When you factor in the Capitals’ similar playing style, it becomes amplified.
That need grows exponentially more important when you get to overtime and beyond. The thing that makes NHL overtime hockey the best experience in sports also makes it the toughest. During overtime, there are no television timeouts. As a result, you have less opportunity to rest your stars so you have to rely on your entire roster.
It becomes amplified because of both team’s style of play.
“You look around the ice and probably half the players on the ice have blood on their jersey by the end of it. Some of our guys did; some of their guys did,” Brooks Laich said to Whyno. “It’s a grinding game. That’s the way it’s going to go.
One change the NHL needs to make is in reference to their overtime “mandatory ice maintenance” policy. The rule states after the first whistle after the 10-minute mark the ice is dry-scraped to remove the snow. Twice during the overtime periods, the Capitals iced the puck at that exact time.
The NHL needs to modify the rules so that teams do not get a chance to rest their tired skaters after icing the puck. Delay the maintenance until the next whistle if you must.
Looking ahead to Game 4 and the rest of the series, it sure would be nice if the Rangers didn’t continue to play such tight games. Outside of Game against Ottawa, the Rangers could have lost all the games they won and won all the games they lost.
A comfortable Rangers victory now and then would be a welcomed site because I am getting too old for this shtye.
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