2013 Playoffs

To paraphrase Winston Churchill – never have so many owed so much to one goaltender. If I were Henrik Lundqvist, I would sue my New York Rangers teammates for lack of support. It was pretty disappointing for this Rangers fan to watch The King try to will his team to victory only to watch the rest of the team fall short of the urgency and desperation they showed in Game 4.

Leave it to Lundqvist to sum up the feelings of the Rangers faithful.

“I expected more for us and I hoped for more,” The Rangers goalie explained to BlueshirtsUnited.com. “It’s an empty feeling. The hardest thing is realizing that it’s over.”

While Lundqvist showed up to play all 14 playoff games, sadly the Rangers offense did not. The Blueshirts played nine one-goal games if you factor in empty net goals turned three games into two-goal decisions (ironically enough, all three were 3-1 losses). Of those one-goal decisions, the Rangers were 4-5.

Even more telling was the fact the Rangers were either shutout or scored just one goal in 6 of their 14 games, posting a 1-5 record,

Far too many times the Rangers were spending more time in the offensive zone looking to make the extra pass rather than put shots on goal, get traffic in front and hunt down rebounds and deflections.

“The last two games, we gave ourselves a chance to win,” Lundqvist said to Dan Rosen of NHL.com. “But it took us a couple of games to get there.

“I expected more from us,” he said. “Last year, a lot of things went our way. This was a different season. We have to learn from this.”

While the Rangers lost the series in five games, the two teams were not separated by much – even though Boston was the better and deeper team. Outside of the Rangers Game 2 loss, the other three defeats were games where the outcome could easily have swung the Blueshirts way.

Rosen offered the following take from Bruins center Gregory Campbell.

“They played hard. They’re built similar to us,” Campbell told NBC Sports Network. “They rely on everybody, and they really play a man’s game. It was a physical series; most of the games could have gone either way.”

For his part, Rangers coach John Tortorella fell on the sword for his team and took the blame in his post-game press conference.

“One of the big things in this series, and it falls on me it’s a big part of my job, is that I couldn’t get my top players to play consistently,” Tortorella lamented. “I need to take some responsibility to try and get them into spots to help us here. I thought that hurt us a bit.”

I am not sure what Torts could have done differently to get the likes of Rick Nash and Brad Richards to score more than one goal apiece or

The bugaboos that plagued the Rangers throughout the playoffs were in full force in Game 5. While the Rangers power play struck for a second straight game, they never were able to turn a one goal lead into a two-goal lead.

Unfortunately, the Rangers did not heed the lesson of that power goal which saw Dan Girardi’s shot from the point beat Tuukka Rask thanks to Brian Boyle’s screen. The Rangers, once again, failed to get enough traffic in front of a goalie.

The Rangers style of play in their defensive end cost them yet again as the Bruins forecheck pinned the Rangers deep in their own zone for stretches at a time. They expended so much energy getting out of their own zone that they were unable to launch any counterattack against the Bruins and the Rangers own forecheck was found wanting.

The Blueshirts are going to have to consider redesigning their defensive zone coverage next season. They need to stop constantly dropping sown low to clog up the shooting lanes because that style leaves the point men WIDE open.

It is a big reason why the Bruins defensemen scored seven of Boston’s 16 goals in the series – including Torey Krug’s record-setting coming out performance. The Elias Sports Bureau confirmed Krug is the first rookie blueliner to score four goals in his first five playoff games since the 1967 expansion.

“I just try to go out and play my game and hopefully make an impact,” the undrafted defenseman told Rosen. “I’m just trying to contribute any chance I get.”

You can bet there will be a lot of GMs trying to figure out why they didn’t take a flyer on the 5-foot-9 defenseman.

I might be wrong, but the Rangers did not seem to have the same zip they had in Game 4. I am not sure if they were physically tired or if it was a matter of their emotional level just being drained, but they never seemed to match the intensity they had in the last game at the Garden.

Despite that, the Rangers had a golden opportunity to tie the game about eight and half minutes into the third period, but Rask stopped Ryan Callahan’s breakaway backhander. I was surprised that Callahan did not use his regular shootout move – dropping his shoulder and snapping off a quick wrister.

“There’s no worse feeling than this,” Callahan explained to Rosen. “We had a good team this year. It’s frustrating.”

Here are my random Ramblings for Game 5:

• Tonight was the 19th anniversary of Mark Messier’s “Guarantee” in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils. Had the Ranegrs won and forced a Game 6, that would have been the anniversary of “Matteau! Matteau! Stephan Matteau!”
• There are two “bright” sides to the Rangers Game 5 loss. First, the Rangers did not get eliminated at home and secondly, and most importantly, we did not have to suffer through the platitudes and exultations that would have been launched Boston’s way by Pierre McGuire. By the way, while he might come across as “all-Canadian”, McGuire was born in Englewood, NJ.
• Of the 28 goals allowed by the Rangers in the playoffs, 14 of them came in the second period. When you also factor in the three overtime goals against, they allowed a whopping 17 goals during the “long-change” period.
• Prior to Game 5, Rask was 2-8 in elimination games.
• The Bruins entered Game 5 with a 16-2 lifetime record when they have held a 3-1 lead in best-of-7 series and they are 9-9 lifetime in Game 5s of best-of-7 series that they have led 3-1.
• The last time the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins faced off in the playoffs was in the 1992 Wales Conference Finals which Pittsburgh won in four straight game one their way to their second consecutive Stanley Cup title. 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr was just 20-years-old then and in his second NHL season. In 21 playoffs games that year, he scored 11 goals and 13 assists
• Jagr is one goal shy of tying Jean Beliveau for 10th place on the all-time playoff goals list with 79. He is also three points short of tying Paul Coffey for 5th place on the all-time playoff points list (196).
• Not that it really matters in the grand scheme of things, but who are the dolts at 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston who pick the Three Stars. I can see Campbell and the First Star and Rask as the Third Star, but Milan Lucic as the Second Star? I think Krug would have been a better choice if you wanted to go all Bruins. Then again, they picked Derick Brassards as the Third Star following Game 1, presumably because it was his offensive zone turnover that lead the game-winning goal. Stay Classy Boston #1 (he writes sarcastically).
• Stay Classy Boston #2 – For the love of all things holy and hockey, ditch that “Woo!” chant after every goal. It is more annoying than that jackwagon with the horn at the Verizon Center.
• For all those Rangers fans who bemoan the Rangers penchant for going up the boards with their breakouts, watch their breakout on Campbell’s game-winning goal. Roman Hamrlik turns the puck over with a pass of the middle and the Rangers never recovered.
• %$@#! Toronto Maple Leafs. One has to wonder what would have happened in the Eastern Conference Semifinals had the Rangers faced the Maple Leafs instead of the Bruins. You would have to expect that the Blueshirts playoff experience would have been a huge factor.
• The final word goes to The King. Henrik Lundqvist tweeted out the following message on Twitter: “On our way home to NY. Season ended way to early.. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the Ranger fans for all the support!!” Rangers fans have to hope that his career turns out like that of Mike Richter who was able to win a Stanley Cup as opposed to Eddie Giacomin who saw Lord Stanley’s Cup elude him.

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Down 2-0 with a little more than 32 minutes left to play, and facing elimination, the New York Rangers playoff run was at a crossroads. They could follow the example of the Washington Capitals who folded like a cheap suit in Game 7. Or, the Blueshirts could decide to fight back and play with a desperation, urgency and resiliency that has been lacking in this series. If they were to choose the latter option, they were going to need a break.

Well, one break coming up, courtesy of Tuukka Rask who certainly will not be winning Dancing With the Stars any time soon. Just 58 seconds after Rangers nemesis Torey Krug scored his third goal of the series, Carl Hagelin’s backhander trickled past the prone Bruins goaltender after Rask stumbled and fell to the ice.

“Probably the ugliest goal I have ever seen,” Henrik Lundqvist commented to Larry Brooks of the NY Post. “It turned it around for us, and that’s hockey.

‘‘We need to be more focused, I need to be more focused,’’ Rask explained to Ira Podell of the AP. ‘‘I just took a step to the side in what I think probably was a skate mark or something. I lost my balance and the rest is history.

‘‘We gave them a couple of gifts and it cost us the game.’’

The other “gift” was Derek Stepan’s goal 75 seconds into the third period to tie the game as he picked Zdeno Chara’s pocket and stuffed home the tying goal. After the game Chara said he didn’t know Stepan was near him – which is understandable given that FrankenChara (copyrighted by my wife Roe) is like eight feet tall on skates and probably thought Stepan was a gnat buzzing around his head.

“It certainly gave us life,” Stepan stated after the game. “It’s a timely goal at the right time.”

The Rangers resiliency was tested again as Boston scored two seconds after Ryan McDonagh’s borderline call for Goalie Interference expired as the Bruins scored after Henrik Lundqvist made a flurry of stops late in the Boston power play.

However, less than two minutes later a month of Sundays hit the calendar, pigs started to fly and cats and dogs were living in harmony as the Rangers power play woke up from its doldrums to tie the game midway through the third period.

Credit Brian Engblom for pointing out the two things the Rangers did right, for a change, on their power play and the big mistake the Bruins committed.

For one of the few times on a man advantage, the Blueshirts were able to gain the Bruins zone while carrying the puck. Combine that with some puck movement and player movement and you have Brian Boyle’s power play goal.

The one main point Engblom pointed out was how the Bruins got caught watching the puck and no one was looking at the weak side and that allowed Boyle to skate into position in the slot. For the rare time, it was Boston that got burned puck-watching – not the Rangers.

I hope John Tortorella puts the following quote up on the bulletin board in the TD Garden prior to Game 5 as a reminder of what the Rangers need to do on Saturday.

“When we get a power play we need to be determined enough to go out and make a difference,” Boyle said to Dan Rosen of NHL.com. “We need to do it. It has to work. The games we lost, if we get a power-play goal it’s a different game.”

The King rallied his teammates with a pre-game speech and then went out and backed it up – especially in overtime as he counted key stops on Patrice Bergeron, Jaromir Jagr and Brad Marchand among his 37 saves.

“I told the guys before the game there was no way we were losing this game,” Lundqvist said. “We want to keep playing. We owe it to ourselves, to our fans. All our focus today was just on this game. Now we move our focus to the next game and the first period of that game. We will see how far that takes us.”

All of Lundqvist’s talk and play would mean nothing without Chris Kreider’s overtime winner. Again, puck and player movement played a key following a huge faceoff win by Derick Brassard. Lost in Hagelin’s “flukey” goal was the gorgeous flip pass Brassard made to spring the Swedish winger.

The game-winning goal goes to show that good things happen when players go to the net and pucks are put on goal or at least in areas of the ice where deflections turn into scoring chances and eventually goals.

While Rick Nash’s pass was precise as he managed to elude Chara’s wingspan, it was a defensive breakdown by one of the Bruins rookie defenseman that paved the way for Kreider to send the Garden faithful home with a smile and a dream.

Dougie Hamilton got caught on the outside of Kreider instead of being on the inside. The key to playing defense is to either put yourself between the puck and the goal or to put yourself between the puck and the man you are checking. Hamilton did neither and the series heads back to Boston for Game 5.

While addressing the media following the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien would not press the panic button.

“There is no panic here,” Julien said. “Had we been outworked and not been there at all we would be talking differently here, but we didn’t get outworked. All it was, as a team, was we didn’t execute as well as we have been. We have to go back home and play a better game.”

While there might be no panic, there might be some concern given the team’s history – blowing a 3-0 series to lead to Philadelphia in 2010 and nearly frittering away a 3-1 series lead to Toronto. There is also the specter of the Providence Bruins blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs.

As Pierre McGuire said, there are three things you need to create in a playoff series: concern, doubt and fear. If the Rangers can force a Game 6, it puts the seed of doubt in their mind. If the Blueshirts manage to extend the series to seven games, doubt will be replaced by fear.

Of course, all of that is moot unless the Rangers win Game 5.

Here are my random Ramblings for Game 4:

• It sure is nice to watch a game on any of the NBC family of channels and not have to listen to Pierre McGuire gush over all things Bruins. One note to CNBC, please ditch the stupidly annoying logo superimposed on the screen.
• The Rangers overtime was their first in four tries this year in the playoffs and was the Bruins first overtime loss in four tries. Lundqvist raised his playoff overtime record to 4-11.
• As big a story as the Rangers win is, the Brad Richards benching runs a close second and would have been an even bigger story had the Rangers lost. It was not an easy decision for Tortorella to bench one of the team’s leaders and Alternate Captains – especially given the relationship between the two, but it had to be done. Tortorella was correct when he said he was doing the player and the team disservice by playing Richards on the fourth line – especially if he is not going to produce on the power play.
• In the press conference Tortorella said, ‘‘By no means is this a situation where I take him out and I’m blaming him,’’ Tortorella said of Richards. ‘‘I need to make decisions about what I feel is right for our team to win tonight’s game, and that’s why I made that decision.’’
• Interesting opinions expressed on Twitter in reference to the Richards saga. Brett Hull tweeted “Coach T has lost his mind Richards has ability to change a game’s outcome”. Exactly when did Hull become such a brilliant hockey mind? How did that stint running the Dallas Stars turn out? Oh yeah, he ended up paying Sean Avery almost $2 million a year to play for the Rangers.
• Former Rangers center and current Boston Bruin Marc Savard decided to weigh in as well via Twitter: “Tortorella should get fired right after the game he has ruined all of his players’ confidence.” I guess those post-concussion syndrome blues must be in full bloom because the Game 4 Rangers did not seem to lack for any confidence. Savard did clarify his position later: “I’m just mad at Torts because if I recall in 2004 Richards helped him win the cup #connsmythe all I’m saying is live or die with your guy!!!” Given how long Torts stuck with Richards, I’d say the coach played him for as long as he could. Besides, Tortorella’s main responsibility is to the Rangers and doing whatever he thinks is best for the team.
• Andrew Gross of The Record pointed out that Lundqvist is 5-0 with a 0.98 goals against average, a .966 save percentage and two shutouts in elimination games at the Garden. Also, Gross wrote the Game 4 victory is the Rangers fifth overtime win in their history when facing elimination. The last time it happened, well, do the words, “Matteau! Matteau! Stephane Matteau!” ring a bell?
• The Blueshirts are 5-6 in Game 4 elimination games when they face a 3-0 series deficit.
• The Rangers problems scoring have been compounded by their defensemen’s inability to produce goals. Last year, Rangers blueliners produced 11 of the team’s 43 goals (25.6%) through 20 games. This year, through 11 games, the d-men have scored three of the Rangers 25 goals (12%). Of course, Marc Staal (three goals) has yet to play and Anton Stralman (three goals) might be done for the series.
• With the Rangers finally breaking through on the power play, the biggest slump in NYC belongs to Mets 1B Ike Davis (1-for-38).
• The Bruins have had 18 previous attempts at a playoff sweep and accomplish the feat 13 times.
• The Rangers HAVE to find a way to account for and slow down the Bruins defensemen. The Boston blueliners have accounted for 12 of the team’s 33 goals.

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If the New York Rangers want to return to the Eastern Conference Finals, they have one more hill to climb – and it is Mount Boston. Given the way the Blueshirts have been playing it might as well be Mount Everest.

After winning Game 7 on the road to eliminate the Washington Capitals, the Rangers will look to become only the fourth team to overcome a 3-0 deficit. The only potential saving grace is that one of the three teams to blow a 3-0 lead was the 2010 Boston Bruins, who were beaten by the Philadelphia Flyers.

In addition to the memory of 2010, Boston only has to think back a couple of weeks to realize they were about 10 minutes away from wasting a 3-1 series lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is a point the Bruins are cognizant of.

“That fourth game is going to be the toughest one and out of any team in the NHL we should probably know that the best,” Johnny Boychuk said to Dan Rosen of NHL.com.

Bruins coach Claude Julien is well aware of his team’s problems closing out a series, but he believes his team is stronger now because of its struggles in the past.

‘‘We can talk about it all we want, but that’s in the past. We had to live with that and we still have to live with that,’’ Julien said to Ira Podell of the AP.

‘‘The Toronto series, I didn’t think our team was in the zone the way it is right now. I anticipate — knowing my team — that we’re going to come out the same next game and certainly not be the Jekyll and Hyde team that we were in the first round.’’

The Rangers have no one to blame but themselves for the predicament they find themselves in. They have not been able to build on any momentum they have gained in the series. The biggest condemnation has been their inability to score goals on any consistent basis – and more importantly – their inability to extend the two one-goal leads they have had in the series.

In Game 1, the Rangers took a 2-1 lead on Derek Stepan’s goal 14 seconds into the third period. However, that lead didn’t even last three minutes before Torey Krug’s power play goal tied the game.

Last night, the Rangers seemed content with Taylor Pyatt’s goal early in the second period as they took their skates off the throttle. That goal pretty much sums what the Rangers need to be doing more of in this series: winning faceoffs, getting shots on goal with traffic at the top of the crease in front of Tuukka Rask.

Sadly, for Rangers fans, their team has not been doing that enough while the Bruins have been winning games doing it – just look at Dan Paille’s game-winner in Game 3.

For years it has been my contention that to win in the playoffs you have to have offense and score goals because, for the most part, the very nature of the playoffs lends itself to tighter defensive play. That is why special teams play is so important because power plays give teams a better chance to score goals – unless of course you are the New York Rangers.

Rather than look to take the play to the Bruins, the Rangers sat back and turned the game over to Henrik Lundqvist. While he played like The King last night, save for the giveaway on the Bruins tying goal, it is too much to ask any goaltender to make a one-goal lead stand up for 36 minutes – especially when the team in front of him doesn’t have much of a clue defensively (more on that later).

Just how one-sided did the game become? The Bruins outshot the Rangers 25-10 following Pyatt’s goal.

Ryan Callahan summed up the team’s play during the second half of the game.

“They grabbed the momentum in the middle of the second and we never got it back,” the Captain admitted to Larry Brooks of the NY Post. “I don’t think we handled their surge correctly.”

One of the earliest notes I made in the game was that the Rangers “ice balance” was off. Again they were getting caught watching the puck in their own zone which, in turn, leaves them vulnerable to plays from the weak side – a problem throughout the series.

The Rangers ice balance is taking a real beating when it comes to defending the Bruins defensemen at the points. Because they are continuing to pack the slot area in an attempt to clog the shooting lanes, the Bruins blueliners are having free reign at the point – which is a huge mistake given that Boston’s defensemen have scored 11 of the teams 31 goals.

That problem gets compounded when you don’t block shots because of the traffic in front of Lundqvist. The result is you have tying goals like Boychuk’s goal in the third period.

The idea of ice balance has become a truly foreign subject in the offensive zone. Despite watching their first goal occur as result of traffic in front of Rask, the Blueshirts continually refuse to make life difficult for Rask. The Bruins netminder had a game almost as easy as Braden Holtby did in Game 2.

Their ice balance is off on the forecheck because, as Pierre McGuire pointed out early and often, the Bruins were having an easy time breaking out of the zone. If the Rangers are not going to go harder, and more balanced, on their forecheck, then they have to switch to a forecheck that looks to contain and slow down the Bruins breakouts.

“At times we struggled to get through and when we got through, we just didn’t sustain our forecheck,” Tortorella admitted to Steve Zipay of Newsday. “A team that is rolling their lines like they are, we need to have some time in their end zone. As the game went on, we were there less and less. So it pops up on you.”

Tortorella and his Rangers have a road ahead of them, but they can’t concern themselves with winning four straights games. They have to concern themselves with just winning one game.

‘‘We’ll meet (Wednesday), practice, and we’re going to try to win a game,’’ Tortorella told Podell. ‘‘That’s all you can do. Down 3-0, it’s a very tough situation, but I have full faith in our athletes. They will be ready to play another game.

‘‘You try to win one and see where you go from there.’’

It looks like the Rangers could be shorthanded heading into Game 4 and beyond. Anton Stralman appeared to suffer a possible concussion after being rammed into the boards by Milan Lucic late in the second period. Chris Kreider caught an inadvertent stick to the eye in the third period and did not return.

If Stralman can’t go, Tortorella will have to turn to Matt Gilroy with either John Moore or Steve Eminger having to step up to top four defensemen minutes.

Here are my random Ramblings for Game 3:

• The other two teams to erase a 3-0 series deficit were the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders.
• Since Boston trailed 4-1 in Game 7 against Toronto, Rask has allowed just five goals.
• According to NHL.com, last night’s loss was the first time the Rangers lost a game when they led going into the third period. They won 16 games during the regular season and two in the playoffs. To take it one step further, the Blueshirts had gone 99 straight games with a regulation time loss when leading after two periods. The last time they lost in regulation after leading going into the third period: February 4, 2010 against the Capitals.
• McGuire’s rather loud rant against the Rangers power play was spot on and well-deserved. However, he did throw Torts a bone about his PP prowess as an assistant coach to John Muckler with the Buffalo Sabres. As annoying as McGuire can be, he was right in this case. Tortorella was an assistant for six years in Buffalo (1989 through 1995) and the Sabres has a Top 10 PP four times (including the #1 unit in 1991-92 and the #2 unit in 1993-94). The other two seasons the Sabres PP was 14th and 11th (lockout shortened 1994-95).
• Here is a solution to stop McGuire’s vaunted Bruins 4th line’s forecheck. The Rangers need to play solid man-to-man defense. Wingers cover the defensemen at the points and the center and the two defensemen concentrate on the Bruins forwards. With the Bruins’ point men covered, their forwards have one of their major outlets cut off.
• The Bruins have outscored the Rangers 5-1 in the third period in this series.
• The Game 3 loss ends the Rangers nine game winning streak at Madison Square Garden and marked just the fourth loss at MSG suffered by Henrik Lundqvist in 16 decisions against the Bruins (12-4-0).
• On a personal note, I write this Blog and do these Recaps because it combines two of my great passions: writing and hockey. It also helps to relieve the stress and aggravation that builds up during the hockey season and especially during the playoffs. With that said, I believe the Bruins could put my 49-year-old broken down arse in goal and I would be able to beat the Rangers – and possibly even shut them out – even though I haven’t played competitive hockey in any form for almost 20 years!

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Here we go again. For the second straight playoff series the New York Rangers find themselves down two games to none after dropping the first two contests on the road. While the Blueshirts have shown that they can recover from such a deficit, you don’t want to keep going back to that well because one of these days that well is going to be bone dry.

The Rangers are tempting fate if they are looking for history to repeat itself because the Boston Bruins are not the Washington Capitals. The Bruins are a better team than the Caps, have better goaltending, and most importantly, they are a battle-tested playoff team a point that Henrik Lundqvist confirmed.

‘‘We’ve done it before,’’ Lundqvist said to Dan Rosen of nhl.com, ‘‘but I think we are playing a better team now so it’s going to be tough to do it.’’

However, history will not be on the Rangers ide because no NHL team has ever rebounded from being down 2-0 in back-to-back series.

The first thing I wrote down in my notes for Game 2 was written on Saturday night. I wrote that the Rangers needed to capitalize on the momentum shifts that were going to occur on Sunday – something they did not do after scoring late in the second period and early in the third period of Game 1.

The Blueshirts did show resiliency after spotting the Bruins leads of 1-0 and 2-1 with Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash stepping up to score goals to tie the game. Derek Stepan nearly put the Rangers in front about eight and half minutes into the second period, but his shot hit the post.

Boston took advantage of poor Rangers defensive coverage following a faceoff win at the Bruins blue line during four-on-four play as Johnny Boychuk’s wrist shot beat a screened Lundqvist for the eventual winning goal.

Poor defensive coverage plagued the Rangers all night long as they kept getting caught watching the puck and not paying attention to the weak side.

That deficiency pretty much ended the game when the Bruins scored 26 seconds into the third period on a play that was identical to Boston’s overtime goal in Game 1. Dan Girardi, on ice for all five Bruins goals, was caught watching the puck and lost track of Brad Marchand in front.

‘‘We felt really good going into the third, and to have that type of goal go in — it’s just two-on-two — it hurts you,’’ Tortorella admitted to Howard Ulmer of the AP. ‘‘We couldn’t generate anything, and then they’re just going to fill the middle and they’re just going to jam you.’’

The Rangers constant ignoring of the weak side if one of the reasons why Bruins’ defensemen have scored four of Boston’s eight goals in this series. Given that Boston’s blueliners have scored 10 of the team’s 30 goals, the Rangers must pay attention to the defensemen and they must not get caught focusing solely on the puck.

While the Bruins finished off the scoring at 12:39, the Bruins realized that the series is closer than Game 2 showed.

‘‘We didn’t play our best,’’ Marchand told Dan Rosen. ‘‘They had a lot of opportunities that if they would’ve converted on, then it would be a completely different story right now. I think especially in the second period, they took it to us, but we were able to bounce back. It’s definitely a very even series.’’

With the game out of hand, I think Coach John Tortorella lost a chance to “gamble” on a little gamesmanship.

Pierre McGuire made a point of a Zdeno Chara slap shot from the point acting like a “curveball”. Add to that his “knucklepuck” goal in Game 1 and I would have asked the referees to measure his stick to make sure it if legal. The worst that would happen is that the Rangers would have to kill a power play. The best case is you get Chara to have to change his sticks and possibly deflect attention from the Rangers poor third period and transfer it on to the coach – a tactic Tortorella uses in his post-game press conferences.

Speaking of the Rangers coach, Tortorella is confident his team will respond when they return to Madison Square Garden.

“We don’t want to lose two games here, no one does,” Torts told Brett Cyrgalis of the NY Post. “But there’s no give in this team. There will be no give in this team. We need to go win a game. Not look anywhere else, just try to win our first home game this series.”

Here are my random Ramblings for Game 2:

• First off, it is amazing that a storied franchise like the Boston Bruins would have resort to that low-rent “Woo” cheer following every goal. It is cheesy when the New York Islanders do it and even more cheesy for an Original Six team to do it. If the Rangers ever did that at the Garden, I would be extremely tempted to burn all my Rangers gear.
• Sunday’s game was the first time Lundqvist allowed more than four goals was a 5-2 loss to Anaheim on March 9, 2011. It in the ensuing 151 games (regular season and playoffs), Lundqvist allowed four goals only 13 times.
• Lundqvist has now started 29 straight games against Boston.
• The Rangers power(less) play is in full playoff mode. They are 0-for-8 against Boston, goalless in their last 19 attempts, and 2-for-36 in the playoffs.
• The Rangers have allowed 20 goals in the playoffs, with 10 of them coming in the second period. When you factor in the three overtime goals, the Blueshirts have allowed 13 goals during the long-change.
• Many fans are calling for Brad Richards to be benched. Unless Ryane Clowe or Darroll Powe is ready to get back into the lineup, you can forget that idea. Kris Newbury is not going to get the job done either. The Blueshirts are better off with Richards in the hopes he somehow finds his [playoff magic. In the meantime, keep him off the power play – especially on the point.
• Speaking of Richards, Ron Duguay spoke with WFAN’s John Jastremski on Saturday night. Duguay believes that Richards’ problems are all mental and that he needs to relax. Much has been made about Richards slowing down and losing a step or two. That is possible, but there are also ways to make up for that through smarter play and better positioning.
• Richards also spoke about Nash’s offensive struggles. Duguay pointed out that teams are much more diligent about checking the opposition’s top players – much like the Rangers did against Alex Ovechkin. Players like Nash have to learn other ways to score.
• Much has been made about Tortorella’s comment about Carl Hagelin’s play on the power play. The only problem with his comment is he should have extended it to all of his players except Lundqvist and Martin Biron – and the first ones at the top of the list should have been Tortorella and Mike Sullivan.
• While Pierre McGuire is like a hungry dog with a bone when he fixates on a player or topic, kudos for him questioning one of the referees when Zdeno Chara broken a Rangers forward’s stick. McGuire correctly questioned why the referee along the icing line, and only a few feet away, did not call the penalty while the referee in the neutral zone had to make the call.
• Heading into Game 3 the Rangers have to be much more diligent with their defensive zone coverage. They must spend as much time worrying about the weak side play as they are on the puck – especially the way the Boston defensemen are getting involved in the offense. The Rangers have to be quicker and more aggressive on their forecheck as way to slow down the Bruins breakouts. When the Bruins do break out, all five Rangers have to know what their defensive assignments are.
• During the interminable pre-game show Mike Milbury said, “I haven’t heard John Tortorella take responsibility” for the Rangers power play woes. Funny, but I don’t recall Milbury ever taking responsibility for the mess that he made on Long Island. Milbury deals away Chara, Bill Muckalt and a 1st round pick (Ottawa drafts Jason Spezza) and acquires Alexei Yashin who is signed for a 10-year/$90 million contract. He deals Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish. He then drafts Rick DiPietro first overall to replace Luongo, thus passing on the likes of Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik. Hey Mike, for moves like that you deserve to beaten with your own shoe.

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If the New York Rangers plan on advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals they better find a way to do within the framework of 60 minutes because their track record in overtime is becoming quite disconcerting. In dropping Game 1 to the Boston Bruins, the Rangers last three playoff losses have all come in overtime.

Conversely, the Bruins last three playoff wins have come via overtime.

The Rangers were steamrolled in overtime. I don’t know if it was Johnny Boychuk’s shot that rang off the post as the buzzer sounded at the end of the third period, Derek Dorsett’s interference penalty in the opening minutes, or a combination of both, but the Blueshirts were not a step slow – they were a couple of steps behind the play in overtime.

Coach John Tortorella pointed to Dorsett’s penalty was the key factor to the overtime domination.

“We never regrouped,” Tortorella admitted to Brett Cyrgalis of the NY Post. “It was a surge. We couldn’t stop it.”

Leave it to Torts to sum up the game as succinctly as possible.

‘‘I thought it was pretty even going into the overtime,’’ he said. ‘‘But we got spanked in the overtime.’’

The Bruins outshot the Rangers 16-5 in overtime and that didn’t even factor in the posts that Boychuk and Jaromir Jagr hit. Eight of those shots came on the Bruins power play – a man advantage that seemed to last the entire overtime.

When you factor in the Rangers and Bruins streaks along with Henrik Lundqvist’s 3-11 record in playoff overtimes, the Blueshirts need to get the job done during regulation.

Lundqvist’s overtime record in the playoffs is misleading because he can only control the defensive end of the ice; he has no way to control his teammates’ inability to score in overtime – and in regulation and especially on the power play for that matter.

Ah yes there it is again, the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The Rangers power(less) play has reached new heights in dragging the team down. The Blueshirts can survive without production from their power(less)play as long as their penalty killers keep their opponents off the board. Once they allow a PPG, all bets are off.

Quite frankly, I am sure you guys are as tired reading about it as I am writing about it, but when they do the postmortem on the Rangers playoff run it will be front and center. Right now the Rangers need their opponents to screw up in order to score a power play goal.

Looking ahead to next year, by hook or by crook, President/GM Glen Sather has got to get the power play unit either someone with a booming shot (like a Chara or Mike Green) or someone who can move the puck with a purpose (like UFA Mark Streit).

In six of the eight games the Rangers have played in the playoffs the team that won the game scored a power play goal. The only two times that was not the case was Games 6 and 7.

In going 0-for-3 in Game, the Rangers power(less) play hasn’t scored in its last 14 attempts and is a moribund 2-for-31 in the playoffs. Quite honestly, I can find five guys from a Men’s Rec league to produce those kinds of numbers.

As bad as the power(less) play was – and it was bad – there was enough blame to go around.

“We need to get good chances and create momentum,” Dan Girardi admitted to Dan Rosen of nhl.com. “We’ve got to get a goal on the power play. It’s a difference maker. We don’t get one and we lose the game. We definitely have to figure out something with that.”

Perhaps the Rangers might want to follow the advice Krug offered up when discussing Boston’s strategy with the man advantage.

‘‘The key to every power play is to get pucks to the net,’’ Krug told Howards Ulman of the AP.

As great as Lundqvist has been in the playoffs – including standing on his head in overtime – The King was a mere commoner on Boston’s first two goals. It is rare that one puck gets through Lundqvist in one game, never mind two.

While he has to stop Torey Krug’s shot on the power play, you could see trouble developing as the four Rangers penalty killers focused on the puck along the RW boards and completely ignored the weak side.

The real killer was Zdeno Chara’s shot that found its with through Lundqvist. Normally, giving up a goal to Chara from the point is understandable given Chara’s booming slap shot. However, the shot that eluded Lundqvist was a “knucklepuck shot” courtesy of the movie “D2: The Mighty Ducks”.

Afterwards, Lundqvist was lamenting his misplay of the Bruins game-winning two-on-one rush.

“I thought I made a bad decision,” Lundqvist told Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald. “I mean it’s a tough play, but I could play it better. That was a tough overtime for us. We didn’t really get going, and they came out with a lot of energy and created a lot of chances. I thought we played a pretty good game. We did, but special teams were the difference, the one at 1-0 and then, I mean that’s going to be the case these playoffs.”

As the Rangers look ahead to Game 2 on Sunday afternoon, they are going to have to work harder in a couple of areas if they want to prevent a repeat of their start of the first round.

Obviously, the Rangers special teams have to be better. On the penalty kill, they have to continue to monitor where Chara is at all times and make sure they don’t allow the Bruins to score when Chara is off the ice – like he was on Krug’s goal. They have to make sure they don’t get caught watching the puck and allow the weak side defenseman free reign.

The Blueshirts also have to remember to be smart and stay away from the undisciplined penalties. Of the Bruins four power plays, only Dorsett’s was the only that could be considered undisciplined but a case could be made that he needs to have better positioning.

You could make a case that Taylor Pyatt’s penalty for his on Boychuk was sketchy because the referees were not going to call a penalty until the Bruins penalty stayed down on the ice. If that was the case, Pyatt should have been hit with at least a four-minute penalty if not a major.

As Rick Carpiniello pointed out on his Journal News Blog, was that hit any worse than the one Jason Chimera delivered on Ryane Clowe or the one Alex Ovechkin put on Ryan McDonagh? Neither of those were deemed to be penalties; hence the problem with the NHL – inconsistent officiating within games and from game-to-game.

With that said, Pyatt has to know that if you can the name of the back of the player’s jersey you can’t run him, you gave to ease off bit and give him a bump instead of a hit.

It is the perfect example of why some in hockey circles are calling for players to be able to “wrap up” opponents instead of laying the smack down when they are vulnerable against the boards. The only problem with that idea is it adds another layer of “gray” area that NHL referees will have to navigate.

On the power play, the Rangers need to do the same thing they need to do at even-strength – get shots and goal and get bodies in front of Tuukku Rask. Rangers’ forwards spend too much time at the side of the crease rather than in front of it. In addition, far too many times the Rangers will set up their attack on one wing and the opposite forward is standing off the opposite post.

In other words, if the Rangers are coming down the RW side, the forward that is “around the net” is standing off the last post. As a result, a cross-ice pass has to go through two defensemen and the goalie. Instead, the weak side forward needs to get to the top of the crease or even the RW post.

The Rangers big guns have to fire in this series. Derek Stepan’s one-timer 14 seconds into the third period shows what happens when you put the puck on net … quickly.

While speaking with WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Thursday, Joe Micheletti stressed the need for the Rangers best players to be their best players.

“Your top players have to step up and be a factor …. These players are going to have to find their games.

The Rangers need to tighten up their play with the puck. According to Adam Rotter of the Rangers SNY Blog, the Rangers were charged with 17 turnovers, as compared to just four for the Bruins. The biggest Rangers culprits: Derick Brassard and Ryan Callahan.

It was Brassard’s ill-timed and ill-conceived cross-ice pass in overtime that caught Ryan McDonagh joining the attack which led to the Bruins eventual game-winning two-on-one.

Callahan might have had one of the worst games of his Rangers career. He just appeared to be a step late in trying to defend the Bruins cross-ice passes in the Rangers zone and was generally not up to his usual standards. You can expect that will not be the case in Game 2.

“We felt like we were right there,” the captain relayed to Cyrgalis. “We’ve dealt with this [losing in OT] before. It happened to us twice in the Washington series. We’ve got two days to regroup and we go right back at it.

Here are my random Ramblings from Game 1:

• Brad Marchand’s name enters the Rangers-Bruins playoff lore. The last time the two teams played an overtime game in the playoffs Jerry Toppazzini scored one of his nine playoff goals in 1958.
• The most famous of all Bruins overtime heroes against the Rangers is Mel Hill who truly earned the nickname “Sudden Death”. During the 1938-39 season, Hill scored just 10 goals. However, in the 1939 Semifinals Hill channeled his inner goal scorer as he scored three overtime game-winning goals against the Rangers. Two of those times Hill’s goals came in Triple OT, including the series winner in Game 7.
• Marchand’s goal was the first of the playoffs. The Rangers have to hope it is a harbinger for Rick Nash to start scoring. Nash was active last night and it was his rush that paved the way for McDonagh’s tying goal with 1.3 seconds left in the second period. In the final minute of the first period, Nash came down the RW and took a wrist shot rather than try another one of those infernal spinoramas – definitely a good sign.
• Stepan’s goal was the six the Bruins have allowed in the first two minutes of a period in their playoff games – thus making strong starts in each period a must.
• We had it pounded into our heads by NBC Sports that Jaromir Jagr is older player who needs to limit his shifts – especially late in games. Here is just how old he is – Jagr was the only player alive when the Rangers and Bruins last met in the playoffs on April 10, 1973.
• Okay who does Pierre McGuire have a bigger man-crush on: The Bruins 4th line (Gregory Campbell, Dan Paille and Shawn Thornton) or Brad Marchand? If the Bruins 4th line is the thing that is going to tip the balance of power in this series, then sign me up for a Rangers series win.
• Speaking of Marchand, the Rangers need to put bodies on both Marchand and David Krejci as a way to slow them down.
• While I am in bash NBC Sports mode, why would you not shift the Los Angeles-San Jose game over to CNBC (or even the NHL Network) while the Rangers-Bruins were battling in overtime? That is the problem when you have one network running your sport.
• I am not sure if it was coincidence, a specific game plan or just a matter of the flow of the game, but Boston sure looked like they placed an emphasis on attacking down the right side and then peppering Lundqvist with shots to the long side (i.e. the stick side).
• Another thing the Bruins were doing was looking to make long passes to get behind the Rangers defensemen. Given the Rangers’ blueliners for letting forwards get behind and for sometimes playing too wide apart, it is a smart strategy for the Bruins and one the Blueshirts will need to tighten up.
• The Rangers must take advantage of the three rookie Bruins defensemen (Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug). It was Bartkowski’s inability to get the puck deep that led to Stepan’s go-ahead goal.
• Speaking of three rookie d-men, Boston was forced to play three rookies on defense back in 1985 against Montreal (John Blum, Frank Simonetti and Mats Thelin). The Bruins lost that best-of-five series in five games.
• One final piece of advice for the power(less) play: more puck and player movement, more traffic in front of Rask, and more shots on goal. I will even accept deliberately shooting wide to avoid blocked shots IF the forwards know enough to go and get the puck and IF they know enough someone also needs to be in FRONT of the net, not to the side.

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The New York Rangers and Boston Bruins playoff matchup has been 40 years in the making as the two former Original Six rivals meet in the NHL’s post-season for the first time since 1973.

That was a special time for me because it represents the beginning of my love for hockey in general and the Rangers specifically. My first sustained hockey memories are of the 1971-72 season as the Rangers made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose to the Bruins in six games. I contend now, as I did back those 40 plus years ago, had Jean Ratelle not broken his ankle the Rangers would have ended their 1940 curse in 1972.

The Blueshirts exacted some form of revenge the next season when they eliminated the Bruins in five games in a series that saw Boston use three goaltenders: 44-year-old Jacques Plante, 36-year-old Ed Johnston, and 33-year-old rookie goaltender Ross Brooks. His Game 1 loss was the last Plante played in the NHL although he did appear in 31 games for the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers in 1974-75.

I have three memories from that series. The first was Ron Harris knocking Phil Esposito out of the playoffs with a check that hurt Espo’s knee in Game 2.

The second was the commotion that Jim Gordon and Bill Chadwick caused following the rangers Game 5 victory at the Boston Garden. The announcers made the innocent mistake of announcing when and where the Rangers charter flight would be landing. The sea of humanity that met the Rangers flight caused Gordon and The Big whistle to regret their announcement.

The final memory is that of Eddie Giacomin posting his first and only career playoff shutout in Game 4 at the Garden. In their book “The New York Rangers: Broadway’s Longest-Running Show”. John Kreiser and Lou Friedman point out that Giacomin had to endure 4:35 worth of power play time in the third period, including a pair of two-man advantages, as the Rangers took three consecutive penalties. Giacomin’s shutout was the first in the playoffs for the Rangers since Chuck Rayner blanked Montreal in 1950.

One of the Rangers who played in the 1972 and 1973 playoff matchups was their eventual GM Glen Sather. Slats fought Bruins forward Fred O’Donnell in Game 1 in 1973.

The Rangers and Bruins have met nine times in the playoffs with Boston winning six of them – including Stanley Cup championships in 1929 and 1972. Steve Zipay of Newsday pointed out that the Rangers beat the Bruins on their way to the Blueshirts Stanley Cup championships in 1928 and 1940.

The Rangers and Bruins played three games in the regular season with Boston winning on Opening Night at the TD Garden. The Rangers first win of the season (in their third game of the year) occurred at MSG against Boston as Marian Gaborik completed a hat trick with a goal 27 seconds into overtime. The Blueshirts took the rubber match in Boston with a 4-3 shootout victory with Captain Ryan Callahan scoring the winner in the breakaway contest.

Boston’s two-goal win in the season opener went against recent history between the two squads. Including the three games they played this year, 19 out of the last 24 games between the Rangers and Bruins have been one-goal games – with the Blueshirts holding a 12-5-2 advantage.

Of major concern is the Rangers inability to make multiple goal leads hold up in both victories as Boston scored late goals to deadlock both games.

In the game at MSG, the Rangers blew a 2-0 first period lead as Boston scored twice in the second period. Nathan Horton tied the game with about four and a half minutes left in regulation.

In their February game in Boston, the Rangers blew a three-goal lead as the Bruins scored three times in the third period – with Brad Marchand forcing overtime with 53 seconds remaining in regulation.

Both the Rangers and Bruins are similar teams in that they do not rely one big-time scorer or one main scoring line. Each teams’ success is based on depth throughout the lineup. The one way the Caps and Bruins are similar is that much like Mike Green, Zdeno Chara must be accounted for at the point – with Chara carrying the potential to wreck havoc in front of the net.

It is a point that Boston GM Peter Chiarelli echoed when he spoke at a press conference on Tuesday.

“They play like us, these guys,” Chiarelli opined. Maybe a little different now that they don’t have Marian Gaborik, they might be a little deeper, but not as dynamic. They play a heavy game like us.”

Just how close are the two teams’ styles of play?

Ron Borges of the Boston Herald offered the following quote in a column.

“We can’t keep playing well in spurts and not so well in other spurts. Right now we’re battling with some inconsistency in our game, whether it’s one game to another .?.?. period to period or shift to shift. We have to be a little better there. We’re aware of that.’’

While it is easy to imagine Tortorella uttering that sentiment, Borges was quoting Boston Bruins Coach Claude Julien.

It was with this type of series in mind that Sather orchestrated the deadline deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks.

While trading Gaborik did free of salary cap space for 2013-2014, the acquisition of Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore put the Blueshirts in a better position to win. The deal added the physical play of Dorsett and deepened the Rangers lineup with Brassard and Moore.

The loss of Ryane Clowe will be a major obstacle for the Rangers because they could use all the size and physical play they can muster to do battle against the Big Bad Bruins. As a result, Aron Asham, Brian Boyle and Taylor Pyatt will be required to increase their physical play.

“All the players we added are good guys,” Sather told Larry Brooks of the NY Post. “They want to compete. The moves gave us more depth, which gave the team more confidence we could handle different situations.”

One “secret weapon” could be Chris Kreider who returns to Boston after helping lead Boston College to an NCAA championship. Tortorella will need to take his own advice after admitting that he did utilize his bench enough in the Game 5 overtime loss. Look for Torts to lengthen his rotation and utilize all four lines – at least through two periods anyway.

It will remain to be seen if Tortorella will look to match his top defensive unit against the Bruins top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Horton. Given Lucic’s size, it might make sense to put Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi opposite him. If they don’t match up against that line, Torts could use them against the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Jaromir Jagr unit.

A third option could be to split Girardi and McDonagh so that he can have one of his top defensive pairing out against each of the Bruins top two lines. Knowing Torts, he will probably employ a combination all three strategies. Of course, there is always the possibility of him drawing up even more contingency plans – especially if Marc Staal recovers to the point where he feels he can make a positive contribution.

Whatever the defensive pairings and line matchups are, the Rangers can expect the Bruins to use their size to create as much traffic in front of Lundqvist and work extra hard at getting their shots through.

‘‘We’re going to have to work extra hard to get those pucks through and then get them to reach the net,’’ Julien explained to Howard Ulman of the AP. ‘‘At the same time, I don’t think it’s a big secret to know that they got a pretty good goaltender, and that traffic in front of the net is going to be something we’re going to want to do a lot.’’

While former Rangers captain Jagr will be in the lineup come Game 1, former Rangers defenseman Wade Redden is not expected to be ready for Thursday night. The fans favorite whipping boy joins Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg among the injured Bruins blueliners. The latter two were not on the ice on Wednesday and Redden left practice early.

As a result, rookies Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and the just recalled Torey Krug will have to pick up the slack and play major minutes at some point in the series if the other three d-men can’t play.

On the plus side, the Rangers will not be facing the NHL’s top power play unit like they did against Washington. As bad as the Rangers 23rd ranked regular season power play was, the Bruins were worse (26th). The one problem is that the Bruins penalty killers ranked 4th during the regular season while the Blueshirts were 15th.

As you might expect, the Rangers and Bruins struggled to score on the power play against each other. Boston was 1-16 and the Blueshirts were 0-14.

As far as their playoff numbers look, both team’s penalty killers were close (Boston-9th and NY-11th), but the power play units were not. Boston’s 11th ranked power play doubled the Rangers 15th ranked production (15.0 to 7.1).

The biggest concern in terms of special teams is Boston’s faceoff advantage. The Bruins’ centers were the best in the NHL during the regular season (56.4) and the playoffs (60.0) while the Rangers were 15th during the regular season (50.0) and 11th in the playoffs (49.2).

If the Rangers are not going to be able to outdo the Bruins on faceoffs, they must pay attention to their checks and work hard to fight through “screens” to put pressure on the Boston defenseman – especially in the Blueshirts zone.

The Rangers eliminated the Capitals without any major offensive contributions from big guns Callahan, Rick Nash and Brad Richards. Teams always need their secondary scorers to contribute in the playoffs, but when push comes to shove it must be these three who lead the way.

With Richards expected to start the series on the fourth line, he has to make the most of his ice time – especially on the power play. Joe Micheletti has made it a point to say that Richards has been a huge asset in helping the younger Blueshirts to relax and just play. The problem is that Richards needs to follow his own advice and let his instinct take over.

Julien will probably start the series with Chara marking Nash in attempt to neutralize Nash’s size. As a result, Nash will have to step up his play and be more physical and more engaged – in other words – more driving to net and shooting the puck and less spinoramas.

It will be interesting to see if the extra time between both teams Game 7 victories will affect Game 1. As I have written previously, momentum does not necessarily carry over from one game to another. Momentum is based on the other team’s goaltender. As good as Tuukka Rask has been, there is a reason why Henrik Lundqvist is called The King.

The Rangers take their cues from Lundqvist. The better and more focused he is, the better and more focused the team is. Lundqvist is in the zone now and is playing at a level where there is no wasted motion and no chasing the puck. He is letting shots come to him rather than fighting the puck. The defense is doing a good job of clearing the crease and letting him see the shots – which will be a key against a Bruins team that plays bigger than the Caps and will attempt to create traffic in front of the net.

As good as the Rangers played, and as great as Lundqvist played against the Caps, the Rangers goaltender believes his team has another gear yet to engage.

‘‘I still think we can improve and do a lot of things better, and we have to, if we want to beat Boston,’’ Lundqvist explained to Ira Podell of the AP. ‘‘It’s going to be a tough series. The great thing here, we managed to win the series without playing our absolute best. Going down the stretch, we really improved as a group, and personally, as well. But I think we all know that playing Boston now, we have to step it up a little more.’’

Those hockey analysts who are picking the Bruins are picking them based on the momentum factor and the emotional burst they received in overcoming Toronto’s three-goal lead.

With no disrespect intended, the Bruins victory is as much as case of a young and inexperienced Maple Leafs being unable to put away the Bruins as it was Boston’s resiliency. Mark Messier often commented that the toughest game to win in a playoff series is that fourth win.

Those same hockey analysts disregard the fact the Rangers bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Washington with a pair of wins in Games 6 and 7.

As for my series prediction, I see the Boston Bruins taking the series in seven games with Wade Redden scoring the series-winning goal in triple overtime .

Seriously, I think the Rangers have found their “game” – the same “game” that led to the second best record in the NHL last season. The Black-and-Blueshirts identity positions the team to continue its payoff run as Lundqvist gets into the Bruins’ heads, much like he did the Capitals.

Much like the Rangers did in their last Original Six matchup against Montreal in 1996, the Rangers will take the series in six games – riding with The King as they head into the Eastern Conference Finals.

One final note – who is Alex Ovechkin going to blame for Russia’s 8-3 shellacking at the hands on an unheralded USA team in the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland on Thursday? While Ovechkin finally ended his post-season scoring drought, the Americans avenged an earlier loss to Russia – in a game that Ovechkin did not play in.

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In his last two appearances with WFAN’s Mike Francesa, Pierre McGuire has spoken about the three things (or levels) you want to create in a playoff series, especially in a Game 7 – concern, doubt and then fear.

The Capitals Concern level had to be elevated when, in a matter of seconds, a Henrik Lundqvist save on Mike Green turned into a 1-0 lead courtesy of Aron Asham’s shot from the right circle.

As McGuire told Francesa, “Home [ice] matters only until the opposition scored the first goal.”

The Capitals Doubt level hit critical mass in the space of just over two minutes when the Rangers extended their one goal lead to a 3-0 advantage at 5:34 of the second period.

“Quite honestly, [it’s] tough to explain. It’s funny how over the years the seventh game turns into some form of blowout,” Caps Coach Adam Oates said to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post. “I wish I had an answer for that. Obviously we pushed very hard in the first period; he made a lot of great saves. They got a lucky one and every bounce seemed to go their way after that.”

Branch Rickey was quoted as saying that “luck is the residue of design”. That Rangers “lucky” goal was a result of one team staying within their game plan and executing it perfectly.

The Capitals Fear Factor came to a head when they hit the second intermission down three goals and facing the arduous task of trying to score three goals against Lundqvist.

The one level McGuire did not mention was the Realization level when a team realizes that the end is at hand – and that point occurred 13 seconds into the third period when Ryan Callahan picked nemesis John Erskine’s pocket on his way to his breakaway backhanded goal.

“Even after the second period, it was like we can do it because we saw what Boston did,” Alex Ovechkin explained to Mike Harris of The Washington Times. “We still had hope, if we were gonna make one play maybe it gonna turn around, but [Ryan] Callahan scored a big one and it was over after that.”

By the time Mats Zuccarello deked Braden Holtby out of his jock to finish the scoring, the only question was whether or not Lundqvist would become the first goaltender since 2002 (Domenik Hasek) to post shutouts in Game 6 and 7 in a series.

As Lundqvist was on the way to extending his shutout streak to 120 minutes, the Capitals faced the ultimate slap in the face with about eight and a half minutes left in their season. After The King stopped yet another Washington flurry of shots, the Blueshirt fans at the Verizon Center serenaded out chants of “Henrik, Henrik!”

The “Henrik” chant was not the only bit of the Garden that reared its head at the Verizon Center as a “Potvin Sucks” whistle was heard after Callahan’s goal.

While the Capitals refused to face facts that Lundqvist had gotten into their heads, Mike Harris of The Washington Times had no problem stating the obvious.

“He was clearly making the Caps think a little too much,” Harris wrote. Too often they tried to maybe get cute, look for one more pass, set up something perfect instead of just blasting the puck in Lundqvist’s direction.”

Following the Rangers Game 6 shutout, Coach John Tortorella spoke of how these situations are the ones that build player’s legacies. This series did not make Lundqvist’s legacy, it merely confirmed what we already knew – The King is the best at what he does.

“To have played this well in such an important game, it is definitely going to help us moving forward,” Lundqvist told Dan Rosen of nhl.com. “It is a lot about confidence, especially in a game like this and the one [Sunday]. You have to believe you can do it and you can’t question anything. You can’t think too much about things you can’t control. It is about going out and taking care of business and doing the things you talk about – and we did and it paid off big time.”

The Blueshirts Game 7 victory showed that the Rangers can successfully walk the fine line of defensive responsibility and Tortorella’s utopian idea of “safe is death”. Last night’s victory shows that the “Black-and-Blueshirts” do have the ability to score goals. Imagine what they could do if they had a functional power play.

In finally breaking through at the Verizon Center, the Rangers played a smart and aggressive game. Rather than sit back and try to protect their one goal lead, the Blueshirts continued to work and attack – as best exemplified by their third goal.

Taking a page out of the Capitals playbook, the Rangers were controlling the puck and kept cycling in the offensive zone before Michael Del Zotto shot deflects off Troy Brouwer’s skate and in between Holtby’s pads.

You kind of got the idea that it was the Rangers night at that point in the game because normally Del Zotto would overshoot that puck and miss the net. This time he got it on goal and the Rangers would take advantage of another deflection goal.

The Rangers need to bottle that shift and refer back to it any time they are on the power play against the Bruins as puck and player movement, along with a shot on net, leads to a goal.

Much was made about Ovechkin’s attempt to hit everything in white – including his borderline boarding major that was not called when the Caps captain rammed Ryan McDonagh into the boards face-first. The Not-So-Great-Eight did hit everything that moved, to the tune of 13 hits in Game 7.

The problem with that is it took Ovie away from what Washington needed him to do – key their struggling offense. McDonagh, Dan Girardi and the rest of the Rangers limited the NHL’s leading goal scorer to one goal in the series and a season-high five game goalless streak.

In addition to shutting down Ovechkin, the Rangers did a fine job in shutting down Mike Green in the last two games. While Green had three shots in each of the final two games, he had to struggle to find clear shooting lanes.

Since the Rangers can’t carve up the Broadway Hat, it was a fitting tribute to the team that McDonagh was awarded the honor. His job does not get an easier in the next round when he will have to do battle with Milan Lucic.

The Rangers were able to limit the Capitals offense – especially during the first period when the game was close. They were limiting the Capitals offensive zone time and Lundqvist was quick to freeze the puck and disrupt any tempo Washington had going.
Can you imagine what the odds would have been on Asham having more goals than Ovechkin? They would probably be as long as the odds on the Rangers winning a seven game series where they got only two goals from Callahan, Rick Nash and Brad Richards.

During the abbreviated regular season, the knock on the Rangers (other than a bad power play) was they were too “top heavy” offensively and were not getting enough production from their third and fourth lines.

Come the playoffs, it was the Rangers secondary scorers who stepped to the forefront to take up the slack of the top guns. You have to believe that at some point the Rangers big offensive producers will find their mark. If they do, and the secondary scorers continue to score, the Rangers playoff run will be a long one.

Here are my random Ramblings from Game 7:

• The Capitals 5-0 loss was their worst since losing a 7-0 decision against Pittsburgh in the first game of the 2000 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
• Washington’s core of Ovechkin, Mike Green, and Nicklas Backstrom are 2-5 in deciding games – including four of five losses at home.
• The Rangers and Capitals back-to-back Game 7 matchup is the fifth time it has happened in the NHL and the first time since 2002 when Colorado and Los Angeles did it.
• This series marked the first time the Rangers faced the same team in three straight playoff series since they played Philadelphia is 1985-87.
• The Rangers will be facing Jaromir Jagr, Wade Redden and their Boston Bruins in an Original Six matchup for the first time since 1973 when the Rangers defeated the Bruins in five games. It will be the 10th playoff series between the two teams with Boston holding a six series to three advantage.
• In addition to Hasek in 2002, Lundqvist joins Harry Lumley (1950) and Curtis Joseph (1998) as goalies who posted shutouts in Game 6 and 7 of a series.
• Brad Richards is five for five in winning seventh and deciding games. John Tortorella is 5-1 in Game 7 – with the only loss coming at the hands of the Capitals in 2009.
• The Rangers have now won nine of their last 12 first round playoff series.
• The Blueshirts series victory marks the first time they won a seventh and deciding game on the road.
• Interesting regular season statistic that I don’t remember seeing – the Rangers led the NHL in scoring from the April 3 trade deadline (3.6 goals per game).

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The New York Rangers all did their mother’s proud on Sunday as they turned in their best effort of the playoffs – with Mamma Lundqvist and Mamma Brassard smiles shining the brightest.

However, the NHL didn’t do either team any favors as there will be no rest for the weary as the Rangers and Capitals return to the ice for a seventh and deciding game about 25 hours after Game 6 ended. It might not be the ideal situation, but it is one that Rangers Coach John Tortorella believes the players need to embrace.

“If I am a player, I want to play right away,” Tortorella explained in his post-game press conference. “The regular season crap means nothing. You make your legacy in these games. You see what kind of character you have as a player and a team.”

The quick turnaround time might prove to be the one chance a team has to carry the momentum over from game to another. If the Rangers are able to get off to another quick start they can go a long way to help neutralize the Caps home ice advantage.

In the end, the next game’s momentum is only as good as the next game’s goaltenders.

Henrik Lundqvist’s legacy does not need to be built – he is merely adding on to an already impressive resume. It is players like Derick Brassard who are embracing hockey’s biggest stage. After struggling to find his playoff legs during the first two games, Brassard has scored seven points during the last four games.

You have to love Brassard whether it was his brutal honesty or naiveté of youth when he said that his game-winning goal came as a result of listening to the Garden crowd’s chant of “Shoot”.

The one thing that was overlooked on his goal was Brassard’s slight hesitation before he shot the puck. Brassard’s delay was just enough to open up a shooting lane. It also didn’t hurt that Rick Nash was camped out in front of Braden Holtby.

If the Rangers want to win their first Game 7 on the road after five defeats, the Rangers need to replicate what they did on that goal – especially on the power play. The Rangers need to find ways to open up shooting lanes and get traffic in front of Holtby – especially on the power play.

As you can see, I am stressing the Rangers need to find ways to score – especially on the power play. Game 6 was the first time that the winning team did not score a power play goal. The Rangers can’t continue to fritter away power plays – especially those of the five-on-three variety.

The Rangers power play needs success on a dual-level. The obvious first level is to start producing goals. The second level is finding ways to maintain momentum on those man advantages when they don’t score. During Game 6, the Rangers power play failed on both levels.

It is kind of amazing that the Rangers could be so aggressive during five-on-five play and then become so passive on the power play. More often than not, the Rangers power play appears to be five guys standing around waiting for a bus. There needs to be more player movement and more MEANINGFUL puck movement. Merely passing the puck from the left point to the right point is not going to get it done.

If the Rangers keep a man in front of the net at all times, it will force one of the Capitals defensemen to play the man. That would turn the man advantage into a pseudo four-on-three – which opens up the ice and should help open up the shooting lanes.

Okay, as my wife Roe would say, the horse is already dead and buried so there is no need to keep beating it.

Speaking of beating dead horses, the Capitals are sounding the drums of discontent concerning the way the series has been called – with the five power plays to none advantage the Rangers ahead being one of the main topics of conversation. The other was the charge that Mike Green’s cross-checking penalty was a result of Derek Dorsett’s slew-foot attempt.

“That play to me is the one that does concern me because it looked like a slew-foot to me and obviously that’s why Mike reacted,” Oates said following the game. “Mike’s not that type of player, and you’re watching it. To me it looks like a slew-foot. Very dangerous play. Greenie’s one of those guys that they want to target, but to me, that’s a very dangerous play.”

In her game story in the Washington Post, Katie Carrera offered this definition of a slew-foot: “The Capitals said Dorsett slew-footed Green, which is when a player uses his legs or feet to knock an opponent’s feet out from under him.”

$100 to the first person who can provide me with tape that shows Dorsett knocking Green’s feet out from under him. Of course, I am not going to have to pay out that Benjamin because it did not happen – regardless of what Oates, Braden Holtby, or Joe Micheletti opine.

I am sure that this quote from Dorsett didn’t help the post-game meal go down any easier.

“In the postseason, they’re letting us play a little bit too,” Dorsett told Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times. “You’ve just got to make sure you don’t retaliate and just play hard and try to get under their skin.”

If you watch the play, Green begins to initiate contact and is in the process of shouldering off Dorsett. As he is doing that, Dorsett’s left leg comes off the ice as he crashes into the boards. Was he going to attempt a slew-foot? The only person who knows that is Dorsett, but the bottom line is that he didn’t knock Green down.

Funny, but I don’t remember Oates or the Capitals complaining about the referees catching the retaliation when Brian Boyle slashed Mike Ribeiro after he was cross-checked in Game 5, nor do I remember the Capitals putting up much of a fuss when Jason Chimera fast-washed Ryane Clowe into the glass earlier in that very same Game 5.

Frankly, Green and the capitals should be relieved that Green didn’t get four minutes for that cross-check because he did draw blood.

Honestly, if Washington is going to harp on how they are having to battles the Rangers and the officials, then the Blueshirts task of winning Game 7 is half complete.

Yes, Washington has been whistled for 31 penalties as compared to the Rangers 19, but there is one thing to remember – the Rangers were the least-penalized team in the NHL during the regular season (averaging 9.2 PIM per game).

As loud as the Capitals were in voicing their displeasure over the officiating, Comcast SportsNet analyst Alan May, a former Capital, really let one of the officials have it. According to Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, May offered the following assessment via Twitter: “1st Star today for Rangers #25 referee Marc Joannette, even worse today than he was at MSG Wednesday.”

Here are my random Ramblings from Game 6:
• As tough as it is on the Rangers and Capitals having to play Games 6 and 7 on back-to-back nights, how do you think the Boston Bruins feel? Mechanical problems with their charter plane forced them to spend the night in Toronto and fly home this morning. In the mean time, the Toronto Maple leafs spent the night in Boston.
• Okay, let’s get all of the negative numbers out of the way. The Rangers have lost 10 of their last 11 playoff games at the Verizon Center. The King is only 3-10 in Washington in the post-season – the same record he has in playoff overtime games. Conversely, Holtby is 5-0 in home playoff games. The Blueshirts have twice rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to win (1994 against New Jersey and 2012 against Ottawa); however, in both cases Game 7 was at MSG.
• You know the games are getting more intense and important when you see Alex Ovechkin hit the ice twice to block shots on the same shift. Ovie revved up his engines last night as he fired five shots on goal – compared to the three shots he managed in Games 3 and 4.
• Green’s cross-checking penalty might have been born more out of frustration at his play that anything Dorsett did. Granted the Caps had no power plays, but Green was pretty invisible until the final moments of the game. By the way, big block by Brian Boyle on Green’s point shot with 25 seconds left in the game.
• Ovechkin wasn’t the only superstar who stepped up his play. Rick Nash was more active in Game 6 than in any other game in the series. While he raised his level of play, you can see that Nash is still not 100% because he seems to be missing that extra gear. Still, it was Nash’s rush and screen that helped lead to Brassard’s goal.
• In the middle of such an important and intense game, Caps rookie Tom Wilson provided a light moment when he pretty much had to crawl back to his bench in the second period after having his skate blade break off.
• Speaking of the second period, it might have been one of the best periods of hockey all season. The Rangers have had all kinds of problems in the second period – allowing seven of Washington’s 12 goals in the second period (and that does not include the two overtime goals scored during the “long-change”).
• Washington is facing their straight seventh and deciding game. They defeated Boston in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals before losing to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
• The Rangers face a bit of a Catch-22 in terms of shooting the puck. They have to find ways to hit the net more while avoiding all of those shots that are hitting Holtby in his chest. They might need to look to take wrist shots and try and pick corners rather than slap shots trying to overpower Holtby. In addition to creating traffic, they need to get Holtby moving one way and shooting back against the grain. Also, when they attempt wraparounds they need to get a better angle because he is doing a good job of holding tight on the post.
• The Blueshirts need to be active and aggressive on the forecheck from the opening whistle. They have to look to make plays at all times, most importantly in their own end. They are still being too passive in terms of clearing the puck during battles at the blue line. While it didn’t cost them a goal on Sunday, it did lead to Ovechkin’s thundering hit on Dan Girardi.
• If the key to real estate is location, location, and location, the key to tonight’s game will be faceoffs, faceoffs, and faceoffs. After a poor Game 5, for the most part, the Rangers responded well in Game 6. They lost at least 10 seconds after losing the faceoff on their five-on-three power play. Winning faceoffs will help the Rangers manage the tempo of the game and help derail the power plays the Capitals will get tonight.
• The last word goes to Officer Steven McDonald: “We need one play, one shift, one block, and a goal to make this game and this season a memorable one … so get it done!”

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Coach John Tortorella can call Game 6 whatever he wants. However, whether he wants to admit or not, his Rangers have their backs to the wall in a must-win, do-or-die, now-or-never, please-fill-in-your-own-sports-cliché elimination game.

“I don’t consider it an elimination game, we’re trying to win one game,” Tortorella told Andrew Gross of The Record. “I’m not going to even use that word. Again, we’ve bounced back. Guys that haven’t been in it, it’s an opportunity; that’s the way they have to look at it. So we’ll go home and try to win a game.”

In trying to win Game 6, Tortorella should show his team the first 19 minutes of the game and the 10:36 of overtime because they pretty much did not bother to show up for the second and third periods – outside of Henrik Lundqvist. It would be most interesting to see how much more the Vezina Trophy nominee could accomplish with a little help from his friends. As crazy at it might seem Lundqvist is 3-10 in the playoffs in overtime.

“Frustrating and disappointing, but it’s not over,” Lundqvist lamented to Dan Rosen of nhl.com. “We have to go home and regroup. It’s going to be a tough couple hours and then you just forget about it.”

The Blueshirts got the quick start they needed 53 second into the game when Brian Boyle buried Derick Brassard’s centering pass for a 1-0 lead. The quick start allowed the Rangers to carry over the momentum they built up in the games at Madison Square Garden. But as well as they played in that first period, there were ominous signs ahead following their goal in the game’s first minute.

In a replay of Game 1, the Rangers never managed to find a way to extend their precarious one-goal lead – even though they had their chances. The Ranger squandered two first period power plays and saw Derek Dorsett and Carl Hagelin denied on breakaways with Hagelin’s attempt disrupted by a trip by a John Erskine trip.

While they dodged a bullet when Anton Stralman returned to action after suffering some type of leg injury, they were not so lucky when Jason Chimera rammed Ryane Clowe into the boards. The subsequent power play was little consolation as Clowe never returned and his status for Game 6 is up in the air. Joe Micheletti later said that it appeared to be a head or wrist injury. Given that Clowe was coming off a concussion and his head did hit the glass, it is probably a good bet that Clowe has suffered another concussion.

Despite all of that going against them, the Rangers had a 1-0 lead after the first period. However, a seemingly innocent flurry of shots at the end of the first period by the Caps would prove to be the momentum changer for the game – and possibly the series.

Down a goal, the Capital intensity, urgency and physical play picked up and the Rangers never managed to match the caps until the start of overtime. By that time, it was too late. The aggressive and confident Rangers team from the last seven periods of hockey was replaced by a passive team content to let their all-world goaltender carry them to victory.

Much like Game 1, Friday night’s game turned on special teams play. While the Rangers continued to kill two minutes while on the power play, the potent Washington power play tied the score.

The Rangers mantra coming into this series was to stay out of the penalty box and avoid taking bad penalties like the plague. However, after wearing the hero’s garland for about 27 minutes of playing time, Boyle donned the goat’s horns with his retaliatory penalty against Mike Ribeiro. Not only did Boyle’s penalty put the Capitals on the power play, it killed a possible four-on-two rush for the Rangers.

“It’s a dumb penalty and you don’t kill those off,” Tortorella said to Rosen. “That’s a guy that is playing really well for us, but it’s a dumb penalty.”

As stupid a penalty as it was, and it was a stupid penalty, it was a case where both players should have gone to the penalty box because Ribeiro obviously cross-checked Boyle – a fact that he fessed up to.

“I went to the net, he fell down, I cross-checked him, he turned around and give me a good whack on my calves,” Ribeiro admitted to Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times.

Joel Ward’s power play goal proved to be a chance at a Game 5 redemption because just a little more than a year ago Ward was the goat in the Capitals Game 5 loss to the Rangers at the Garden on May 7, 2012. His double-minor for high-sticking led to Brad Richards tying goal with 6.6 second left in regulation and Marc Staal’s game-winner in OT.

“Wardo’s a horse,” Karl Alzner said to Rich Campbell of The Washington Times. “He’s a playoff performer. I think that’s the main reason why we got him here.”

If the Rangers second period was bad, the third period was worse as they were outshot 13-4 in the final 20 minutes – and that is as result of a “flurry” of three shots in the final two minutes.

The biggest surprise of the night had to be the way the two teams approached overtime. Rather than be content to sit back and wait for the other team to make a mistake, both teams attacked early and often. The Rangers were way more engaged offensively in overtime then they were in the second and third periods. One has to wonder how the game would have turned if they showed that type of energy and urgency in the second and third periods.

The Rangers caught a bad break on the winning goal when John Moore blocked Mike Green’s shot from the point. The young defenseman was hurt momentarily, but it was just enough for him to be late to cover Ribeiro who was able to convert on the loose puck on Alzner’s shot from the point.

It is a lesson the Rangers forwards should heed – you need to be in front of the net (and facing the net) to bang home rebounds.

Here are my random Ramblings from Game 5:

• The Rangers must find a way to combat the “long-change” curse that has haunted them in this series. Seven of the Caps 12 goals have been scored in the second period – when both teams have to skate to the other end of the ice to change lines. When you factor in the overtimes, the number balloons to nine of 12 goals during the “long-change”.
• I have come to the conclusion that Rick Nash is hurt. I know that Washington is blanketing him like the Rangers are blanketing Alex Ovechkin, but all of these incessant spinorama attempts are most telling. Nash is not using his size and skating to drive to the net, nor is he snapping off his strong wrist shot. Either his leg, wrist or a combination of both are hurting him.
• The Blueshirts have no chance at extending the series to a seventh game if Nash, Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards do not elevate their games. Enough with the secondary scorers leading the way. There is a reason these guys are paid what they paid and why they wear letters on their jerseys and putting up a big effort in Game 6 9and Game 7) is that reason.
• If the Rangers want to win Game 6 (and Game 7) they better score a power play goal. The winning team as scored a power play goal in each game. It makes sense when you consider how close the games are. 10 of the last 11 playoff games between the Capitals and Rangers have been decided by one goal – with four of those games going to overtime. The Rangers are 5-5 in those 10 games.
• The more the Rangers struggle with the man advantage, the more liberties Washington is going to take without fear or giving up a goal.
• With Clowe out of the lineup, Tortorella has a decision to make. Does he insert Kris Newbury to give the fourth line a center or does he go for the high-risk/high-reward offensive style of play of Chris Kreider. My decision would be to roll the dice and go with the offensive Kreider and give him a regular shift. Odds are Torts will go with Newbury and the more responsible defensive player.
• Newbury might not be a bad idea given how horrible the Rangers were on faceoffs in Game 5 – losing 42 of 72 draws.
• Ultimately, the Game 5 loss is my responsibility. For the first time in the series I decided to write and post a game preview – thus changing the mojo of the series. Don’t worry it will not happen again because my wife has already read me the riot act .

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The Rangers better be prepared mentally and physically from the opening faceoff tonight at the Verizon Center because the Capitals are going to look to throw everything at the Blueshirts – including the proverbial kitchen sink – at the start of Game 5. Of course, that is easier said than done given the troubles the Rangers have had at the start of games during the abbreviated season.

It is imperative that the Rangers stay focused and concentrate on what they do best when they are playing at their best – be strong and aggressive on the forecheck, responsible in the defensive zone and stay out of the penalty box.

While the Rangers main concern is to stay the course from Games 3 and 4, the Capitals realize that they need to change their strategy to combat the Rangers.

“They kept their two guys coming strong and the third guy was just quick to follow,” Karl Alzner said to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post. “So it made it a little bit tougher for us to get the puck and bump it over like we like to. They were a lot better with their dumps as well. They made some adjustments, so we’ll have to adjust now.”

You can bet that Hart Trophy nominee Alex Ovechkin is going to look to lay waste to the Rangers after managing just three shots at Madison Square Garden – and that starts with some adjustments from his linemates Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus “JoJo” Johansson.

“I don’t think they changed how they play,” Ovechkin explained to Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times. “Of course they put [captain Ryan] Callahan against our line and we all know what he gonna do. He try and make physical contact on you. Girardi and McDonagh, they just stay back and try to block the shots. If we have our chance to shoot the puck, we have to shoot it. Don’t wait one second — or more — because if I’m gonna be in front of the net with JoJo we still have to shoot.”

Lest Ovechkin think that the Rangers are singling him out, Rangers Coach John Tortorella said the team is just doing what it does.

“We’re playing defense the way we always play defense,” Tortorella said to Jeff Z. Klein of the NY Times. “Any top line, that’s any team’s strategy, to try to keep them in their own end zone. No one’s reinventing the wheel here in this series.”

Tortorella had a much easier time dictating matchups at the Garden because he the last change as the home team – an advantage he won’t have in Game 5.

Even with the last change, Caps Coach Adam Oates knows that keeping his top line away from the Rangers top defensemen is not an easy thing because, as he explained to Whyno, “it’s still difficult because they play those two guys so much. They play 30 minutes.”

While much has been made about the matchups, it takes more than just one or two players to shut down Ovechkin, as demonstrated by their play in the games at the Garden.

“The last two games, we’ve had better structure with our forwards in the neutral zone,” McDonagh admitted to Klein. “If he gets through there, we’re able to have good gaps because of our structure. We talk about having to defend in units of five — up the ice in five, and backcheck in five.”

The Rangers will have one advantage in that Martin Erat will not be playing in Game 5 and his availability for the rest of the series is uncertain. Oates declined to comments on the results of Erat’s MRI – just going to show that Torts is not the only coach in this series who is keeping injury information to a bare minimum.

It is expected that former 2012 first round draft pick (#16) Tom Wilson will be inserted into the lineup on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks. While he is expected to get the ice time that Chris Kreider got last year, Wilson is looking to write his own Kreider-like story.

The 6-foot-4 and 210 pound RW went from the OHL Playoffs with the Plymouth Whalers to the AHL playoffs with the Hershey Bears and now to the NHL playoffs – all at the age of 19.

While the Capitals will be without Erat, the Rangers will be without Marc Staal who continues to struggle to get back into the lineup on a regular basis. After not speaking with the media prior to and after Game 4, the Rangers alternate captain spoke today.

“On the ice it didn’t go particularly well and then as the day went on I just couldn’t see myself getting into a game situation,” Staal told Andrew Gross. “It’s hard to explain, I don’t really want to try to, it’ll probably get misunderstood. If I’m ready to go, obviously I want to play I just couldn’t last game.”

Gross wrote that Staal did not go into details on the specifics, but Staal did say that his decision not to play in Game 4 (and presumably any games beyond tonight) had nothing to with what happened in Game 3.

It would be foolish for me or anyone else to speculate as to what the problem is. Suffice it to say that if Staal’s is not comfortable playing then he is making the right decision. The last thing he needs to do it put him into a situation where he is putting himself in danger.

While the NHL is making news on the ice with the Stanley Cup playoffs, the league is also making news off the ice as they continue to release the names of its award nominees. You can expect the crowd at the Verizon Center will be vocal in recognizing Ovechkin as one of the three finalists for the Hart Trophy, along with Sidney Crosby and John Tavares. You can also expect a lot of noise coming out of the Western Conference since all three finalists are Eastern Conference players.

The other big news has the NHL releasing/leaking that the league will be shutting for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics break from February 9-25, 2014.

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