Wed 30 Apr 2014
So here we are as the New York Rangers face yet another Game 7. Should we really have expected anything else from the Rangers? I know the Blueshirts refuse to do things the easy way, hence their 12 game losing streak when they are leading a series, but do they constantly have to do things the hard way? Maybe they should just start every playoff with Game 7 and the series tied 3-3.
Given the way the Rangers failed to show up for the final minutes of Game 6, they better hope that momentum does carry over from game-to-game.
For their part, the Rangers are talking about putting the horrors of Game 6 out of their minds. Martin St. Louis refers to “amnesia” and Brad Richards told the AP, “This team is not going to be thinking about what happened tonight. It’s over once we get on the train. You have to move on quick.”
Not only should the Rangers NOT forget their Game 6 performance, they need to embrace it, take ownership of it, and do whatever is necessary to make sure they do not repeat that performance tonight.
In my series preview, I pointed to four keys the Rangers needed to accomplish in order to defeat the Flyers. In brief, they were:
1. Increased goal scoring
2. Special Teams
3. Don’t retaliate unnecessarily
4. Best players must be the best players
Of the four, the closest the Rangers have come accomplishing with any consistency is the third one – and even that comes with a caveat. While the Rangers are not getting caught for retaliatory penalties, they are getting caught taking bad/lazy penalties.
The penalty that Benoit Pouliot took on Claude Giroux was both bad and lazy – despite the fact that the referees refuse to penalize the Flyers for their splashy-divey embellishments.
As for the other keys, the Rangers have been wildly inconsistent. Their offense has been humming when they win, but near nonexistent in their losses. After starting the series 3-8 on the power play, the Rangers man (dis)advantage has returned as they have been blanked on their 20 power plays. Maybe they need to hire Adam Oates as a power play consultant – stat!
The Rangers star players have been wildly inconsistent and that inconsistency has spread to usually reliable players like Pouliot, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello.
The biggest disappointment has been Rick Nash because of his; you guessed it, wildly inconsistent play. While he has shown glimpses, he has not stepped his play the way the team needs him. Nash needs to be more than just a finesse perimeter player; he needs to play with jam – something that Ray Ferraro pointed out today.
Adam Rotter of SNY offered the following quote from Ferraro who was on Leafs Lunch today and Ferraro pulled no punches when it came to breaking down Nash’s game so far.
“This is my pet peeve when I watch players. I was an undersized guy, I see someone who is 6-4 and 230 and he rushes it over the side wall and takes his shot from there? I f he cuts to the net and he is almost unstoppable,” Ferraro said.
“There is no anger to his game and you don’t need to be slashing guys but you need some passion or anger and he doesn’t display it. They brought him in for the playoffs. Dom Moore has two in this playoffs. They pay him $7 million. I don’t see how you can see that and think that what you are doing is right. He isn’t even close.”
While Nash is far from the only star Ranger not living up to the back of his hockey card, his salary and potential to be a game-changer puts the biggest target on his back.
The key to a Rangers Game 7 victory comes down to DISCIPLINE. It is a concept that has to permeate across all parts of the Blueshirts game tonight. It starts with staying out of the penalty box, especially if the NHL is going to employee the “Screw-the-Rangers” rulebook. You know the one where fast whistles disallow Ranger goals and see the Blueshirts called for three diving penalties while the Flyers cannonball their way into the pool.
The Rangers, along with Montreal, have been the best five-on-five teams in the playoffs – outscoring Philly 13-7 so staying out of the penalty box is imperative in Game 7.
The idea of discipline goes beyond staying out of the penalty box. It extends to their offensive zone play and especially on their power play. It is rather unfathomable how a team can be so disciplined killing penalties and then have no clue how to react when they have the man advantage.
Alain Vigneault is turning out to be one of those coaches who can design a good game plan going into a game, but has troubles making adjustments during the game – especially in terms of the power play.
The Rangers are trying to employ the diamond power play set up as a means to jump start their power play. However, the Flyers have countered it and AV seems unwilling or incapable of trying anything else.
This is where the discipline part comes into play. The Rangers MUST make Steve Mason has uncomfortable as possible in goal. That means pressure and traffic in front of the net. The Rangers were causing all kinds of havoc with their forecheck during the first period of Game 6, but could not take advantage of that or the fact that Masone was a human rebound machine because no Rangers forwards ever camped out at the top of the crease.
If the Rangers had a couple of Adam Graves and Steve Vickers types, this column would be extolling the Rangers on their Game 6 victory and looking ahead to ways to make Marc-Andre Fleury self-destruct.
The bottom line is that the Rangers forwards have to be disciplined enough to grow a set of onions and get to working the front of the net and the defensemen have to start being more disciplined with their shots from the point by working to get their shots through. Too many shots from the point are getting blocked.
The Rangers might want to utilize a strategy that seemed to work against Martin Brodeur and might work against Mason. The Rangers need to start generating some of their offense from behind the net. That doesn’t necessarily mean trying to beat Mason on wrap-arounds. It means getting the Flyers to commit down low so that it either A) opens up shots from the point or B) opens up shots from the slot (assuming the forwards man-up and go to the slot).
When the Rangers do get their shots they need to be disciplined enough to remember he catches with his right hand so they need to adjust if they want to beat him to the stick side. Mason has not looked all that comfortable when the Rangers go upstairs on him.
The Rangers need to heed the advice of Herb Brooks who constantly reminded his USA team to “play your game” as they upset the Soviet Union.
In the end, the Rangers are going to need Henrik Lundqvist at his best – and that is the way he has been in terms of facing Game 7 situations. If his teammates given him an even chance, he has shown an ability to get the job done in seventh and deciding games:
• 3-1 record, 1.00 GAA, .963 SV%, and 1 SO in four career Game 7s
• 6-2 record, 1.48 GAA, .950 SV%, and 2 SO in his last 8 elimination games
• 5-0 record, 0.98 GAA, .966 SV%, and 2 SO in his last 5 elimination games @ MSG
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.