Mon 20 May 2013
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.