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.
A bit of surprising news here, as Dan Girardi has officially been ruled out by Alain Vigneault. Girardi has an “all over” injury, per the coach, which is as playoffs as you can get. If it’s an all over injury, he may be physically, mentally, and spiritually injured.
Henrik Lundqvist, who skated, will be a game time decision.
Per John Shannon, there appears to be no damage to Henrik Lundqvist’s eye after getting hit in the eye by Marc Staal’s errant stick. This is obviously good news, as permanent eye damage was a major concern for all parties, and the recall of Magnus Hellberg threw more fuel to the fire.
Swelling appears to be a major issue, so Lundqvist is probably a game time decision for tomorrow. This is one of those situations where NBC’s odd scheduling to get the Rangers on NBC for two games works in the Rangers’ advantage.
Last night, Alain Vigneault got what he thought was his dream matchup. His two remaining –Ryan McDonagh is hurt– stud defensive defensemen out against one of the best players in the world in Sidney Crosby. Then the unthinkable happened, the perfect matchup exploded in his face, allowing three even strength goals.
Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were beyond ineffective last night, which is sad because they actually did a decent job in the possession department. It’s also sad because last night’s game was just a microcosm of their respective seasons. In fact, their seasons were summed up in one well timed picture from Josh.
The Rangers have recalled goalie Magnus Hellberg from the Hartford Wolf Pack. This is not a good sign for Henrik Lundqvist, who was clipped in the eye –through his mask, mind you– by Marc Staal in the first period of last night’s playoff opener.
Hellberg, if he dresses, will be the backup for Antti Raanta. Suffice it to say, if they are recalling him this early, it doesn’t look good for Hank.
The Rangers got off to a great start in Pittsburgh last night, throwing everything they could at backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff. Not only were they unable to solve the third stringer, they gave up late goals in both the first and second periods. They scored a powerplay goal in the third, but immediately coughed up a shorty a minute late to nullify it. They then allowed another in the third (the third with Staal/Girardi on the ice).
Even worse than the lost game is the loss of Henrik Lundqvist. Hank took a stick to the eye from Marc Staal, an exceedingly rare case where his stick went through the cat-eye and actually got his eye. Lundqvist was writing on the ice in pain, reminiscent of when Staal was on the ice after taking the puck to the eye a few years ago. This was just as scary.
Lundqvist finished the period –giving up the first goal– but did not return. Antti Raanta played well in relief, but the fears about the Rangers defense came to fruition, as pairing Staal with Dan Girardi led to a pair of goals against and what turned out to be an insurmountable deficit.
Playoff hockey is back. The Rangers begin their quest for another run through the playoffs in Pittsburgh to take on the red-hot Penguins, who are finally getting healthy.
Marc-Andre Fleury is back. It appears Olli Maata is back as well. Evgeni Malkin is still hurt, but that was expected. His absence is notable, like Ryan McDonagh’s is for the Rangers.