Sat 4 May 2013
Only once in their 86-year history have the New York Rangers erased a two games to none deficit – in 1996 when they spotted the Montreal Canadiens the first two games of their Conference Quarterfinals battle. What made that accomplishment even more incredible was that the Blueshirts had dropped the first two games at home.
In that respect, the 2013 Rangers have an advantage because they have the opportunity to start their series comeback Monday night at Madison Square Garden. However, unless the team finds a way to revive their moribund power play the series may never switch back to the Verizon Center.
The Rangers and Capitals entered the series as two evenly matched teams that were separated by just one point. However in terms of their power plays, Washington’s man advantage scores a TKO in the battle with the Rangers inept power play.
It was apparent midway through this game that two teams were already facing “overtime hockey” because Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby were on their games. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the game within a game that is the “game of inches” were going against the Rangers. Anton Stralman rang a shot off the pipes three minutes and change into the game and then Rick Nash hit the post in the final four minutes of the second period as his bulrush drew a Rangers power play.
There it goes again, the Voldemort of the Rangers: the-thing-that-must-not-be-named. It is the thing that has the Rangers in a 2-0 deficit rather than even, or dare I say, ahead two games to none.
While the four blind mice, er officials, blew the delay of game call in the final minute of regulation, did it really matter? The Rangers squandered the power play that Nash drew and then they wasted the golden opportunity the Caps gave them when Washington was called for delay-of-the-game early in Overtime.
Then when Ryan McDonagh was sent off for his own delay penalty, even the most diehard Rangers fan knew that the end was near.
The Capitals were able to force the Rangers into that penalty because of the Blueshirts habit of dropping their forwards so deep in the defensive zone, that they are unable to prevent back passes to the point. While that style helps seal off the shooting lanes, it also tends to put the team back on their heels as they are forechecked into turnovers, mistakes, or penalties – which was exactly the case in Overtime.
I don’t normally agree with Barry Melrose on too many things, but ESPN’s analyst was dead solid perfect in explaining the Rangers power play woes on ESPN News following Game 2.
“This is a power play with tons of talent … they’re not getting shots through,” Melrose explained. “They play a very stagnant power play …. It’s basically five guys standing still.”
Contrast that with the Capitals game-winning goal and you see the difference in the two power play units. Washington moved the puck and themselves and opened up a shooting lane for Mike Green. The Rangers? They continue to settle for keeping the puck on the perimeter as they over-pass in an attempt to find that mythical perfect power play shot.
Here are my random Ramblings for Game 2:
• Call me a mark, but I always enjoy any hockey game Mike Emrick calls. I know he can get a bit annoying when he repeats his pet keywords (e.g. pitchforking the puck), but the man has an encyclopedic knowledge of the game that is only second to his passion for the game. I also don’t mind Ed Olczyk as the color analyst – so much so that I would like to see him work on MSG. However, as for Pierre McGuire, I’d be willing to cough up a Benjamin Franklin to the first place who rings a puck off his head.
• No offense to Braden Holtby, but why does every goaltender the Rangers face – especially in the playoffs – turn into a Vezina Trophy winner? Why can’t one of them look as bad as Marc-Andre Fleury did in allowing that bank shot game winner against the New York Islanders on Friday night?
• While the Rangers would have spit-the-bit on the ensuing power play anyway, how did four officials miss that delay-of-game penalty at the end of regulation? It is calls like that which give pause to the conspiracy theories Rangers fans hatch against the NHL. It is a black and white call that leaves no room for interpretation. Frankly, I’d like to see the NHL give officials a little leeway, especially on plays like that where a player is trying to clear a rolling/bouncing puck. Instead of calling the penalty, keep the faceoff in the defensive zone and treat it like an icing – the offending team is not able to substitute players.
• While I am on my officiating soapbox, I detest it when referees eliminate a power play by calling an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for diving. As far as I am concerned, it is one or the other. If it is a penalty then I don’t care if a player dives/embellishes on the penalty. Referees don’t call penalties on players who stay on the ice after blocking a shot and then miraculously skate off the ice on their own and never miss a shift.
• If Derek Dorsett deserved the diving penalty, then why wasn’t one called on Rick Nash when Nicklas Backstrom took him down in the neutral zone in the second period? If there is no penalty Backstrom, they Nash “must” have taken a dive to try and draw a penalty.
• Here is why I hate McGuire so much. On the play where Dorsett was called for the dive Pierre said, “Professional players don’t fall like that”. Wow, I could have sworn NBC and McGuire have covered Pittsburgh Penguins games because a certain #87 dives as much as Greg Louganis.
• Rangers are now 1-9 in their last 10 playoff games at the Verizon Center. The lone win was Marian Gaborik’s triple overtime winner nearly a year ago (May 2, 2012). In those 10 games, the Rangers have scored nine goals (just one on the PP) while allowing 23.
• Game 2 was the first time since 1933 that a Rangers playoff game ended scoreless after regulation. The Rangers and Montreal Maroons played to a 0-0 tie. According to the NHL playoff format at that time, the series was a two-game, total-goals series. The Rangers were eliminated when they lost the second game 2-1 – thus losing the series two goals to one.
• Looking ahead to Game 3, it will not surprise me to see the rest of the Rangers walking wounded return to the lineup. Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett skated in Game 2 and I would look for Ryane Clowe and Marc Staal to be dressed for Game 3. On Friday, Coach John Tortorella said that urgency is more important than conditioning in terms of players getting back into the lineup. “If we don’t win, we’re done. So I don’t give a damn about the conditioning,” Tortorella said. “If I think a player is gonna help us, he’s going to play.”
• The Rangers have to get more traffic in front of Holtby and get more shots ON GOAL – especially on the power play. When they have the man advantage, they have to stress movement of players and the puck as a means of opening up shooting lanes and they have to throw a lot of rubber ON GOAL.
• Tortorella needs to get Brad Richards off the point on the power play. He is too tentative with the puck. The Rangers need someone who is more decisive and willing to shoot the puck. While has hasn’t scored yet, Rick Nash has stepped up his effort. Richards, not so much.
• At the same time, forwards have to go to the top of the crease and stop setting up at the side of the net. Going to the top of the crease will draw at least one defenseman’s attention – which opens up the ice and sets up the next bit of advice.
• Working the offense from behind the goal line, and more specifically, from behind the net is still a good strategy. The only adjustment they might want to make is not trying as many stuff-in wraparounds. Instead, they might want to take an extra stride or two so that they have a little more room, and a better angle, to shoot.
• The Rangers also need to stop settling for long-range shots. They need to start driving to the net with the puck. That will draw defenders and open chances for rebounds and loose pucks. It also might draw more power plays. Look even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then and if the Rangers keep drawing power plays they are bound to score on of these days.
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