In case you haven’t noticed, I’m trying to instill some humor on the blog in the stressful times that are the playoffs. This time, the laugh/smile comes from good ole Sean Avery. Avery, who hasn’t fished his skates out of the Hudson yet, apparently landed a role in Patriot’s Day, a Mark Wahlberg movie about the Boston Marathon bombing.
Honestly, I’m surprised that he hasn’t received more attention for his acting. He killed it in Avatar and Terminator.
The Rangers and Penguins head into a pivotal Game Three matchup at MSG with the series tied at one tonight. It’s been a roller coaster ride of emotions, with strong play, poor defensive zone coverage, improved play, injuries, and poop-your-pants scares. With Jeff Zatkoff starting to look like the third string goalie he is, Rangers fans who didn’t think their team stood a chance now all of a sudden have some hope. So naturally, I have some thoughts heading into the contest.
1. Zatkoff was always going to be the wild card in this series. All goalies, no matter what level, can get extremely hot and carry a team. Look at what Andrew Hammond did in Ottawa last season. It happens. But there is so much skill on this Rangers team that if they do the little things in their own end right, they will feast on these kinds of goalies. Zatkoff played very well in Game One, but wasn’t perfect and was slow laterally. That was exploited in Game Two. The longer Marc-Andre Fleury is out, the better.
— Sean Tierney (@SeanTierneyTss) April 18, 2016
After spending all year as a terrible possession team, the Rangers are one of the best through two playoff games. Clearly they trolled us all year long. Their plan all along was to play dead, be seemingly out for the count, then wake up and tear apart their opponents. Well done, Rangers. Well done indeed.
Some good news for Rangerland today, as Ryan McDonagh was a full participant in practice today. He did not have a non-contact jersey, and he was gripping his stick with both hands. This bodes well for the Rangers, who could use a healthy McDonagh to strengthen their blue line play.
No word on if he plays in Game Three, but it’s the playoffs.
Raphael Diaz was recalled by the Rangers yesterday, much to the chagrin of many fans, as Dylan McIlrath seemed to finally be getting a legitimate chance with Dan Girardi out of the lineup. The hope was fair, as McIlrath really had done everything he could to warrant a longer look with the team. Alas, he was limited in his playing time in Game Two, and only saw ice time late because Kevin Klein was in the box.
This led to the speculation of the Diaz recall, and to be fair, Diaz is an NHL defenseman. He’s another one of those guys, like Matt Hunwick, that floats under the radar because he isn’t flashy or physical. He just moves the puck up the ice and starts the breakout. Couple that with his skating ability –which is significantly better than McIlrath’s– and you have a guy that is exactly what the Rangers need.
The Rangers will be recalling defenseman Raphael Diaz from the Hartford Wolf Pack in a relatively expected move. Diaz is to be recalled to replace the injured Dan Girardi and the supposedly ineffective Dylan McIlrath. McIlrath barely played in yesterday’s Game Two win, so this move was someone easy to predict. Whether or not you believe McIlrath should play, Diaz’s skill set is better served against the Penguins.
Diaz is expected to practice in full with the Rangers tomorrow and play in Game Three.
Yesterday’s game was as close to a must win as you can get for the Rangers, and they delivered. They added to their solid puck possession from Game One by tightening up in the defensive zone, shutting down the Penguins at even strength. But per Rangers tradition this year, they allowed a pair of powerplay goals against. Couple that with Jeff Zatkoff returning to human form, and the Rangers all of a sudden looked like a team that can skate and compete with the Penguins.
Make no mistake, it was not a coincidence that Dan Girardi’s “injury” and the improved defensive zone play came at the same time. The Rangers still had issues on the penalty kill –too many cross ice passes– but the even strength play in the DZ was much tighter. Henrik Lundqvist was back to Hank mode, and Zatkoff started to look like the third string goalie that he actually is. This game was a confidence booster for the Rangers, showing they can skate with this club if they limit the DZ mistakes.
— Dave Shapiro (@BlueSeatBlogs) April 16, 2016
Derek Stepan has left Game Two and will not return after getting hit from behind by Ben Lovejoy. No call on the play.
After dropping Game One, the Rangers are back at it in Pittsburgh with a need to even the series. Evgeni Malkin may be back (as of this writing nothing was official). If he is back, and he’s on the third line, where he was taking line rushes yesterday, then that is some scary depth for the Penguins. This is a team that made the Rangers eat their mistakes, and Malkin will only help that.
The Rangers are without Dan Girardi, so Dylan McIlrath will get his first taste of playoff hockey today. Call it harsh, but that is likely a net-win for the Rangers, as Girardi (and Staal) was downright awful in Game One. Regardless, the Rangers need to continue to pressure like they did in Game One –where they dominated the possession game– but limit the defensive zone mistakes. As we’ve been touting, possession is part of the process. DZ mistakes are the other part.
Alain Vigneault backed Rangers fans off the ledge, stating that Henrik Lundqvist is good to go for today’s game. There were concerns that Hank, who is really the Rangers only hope at winning this series, would be unable to play in Game Two after Marc Staal’s errant stick caught him in the eye.
I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief.