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Category: Game Thread

Game 79: Getting a point vs. the Sens will clinch a playoff spot

Photo: Star Ledger

Photo: Star Ledger

The Rangers return from a successful west coast swing to a potential playoff clinching game tonight. The Rangers can clinch a spot with a point tonight against the Ottawa Senators. They can also clinch if the Leafs and Devils lose tonight in any fashion. The team probably doesn’t want to back into the playoffs, so beating an Ottawa team that can’t seem to play defense would be nice.

The Sens forechecking strategy is a bit complex, as they are a hybrid forechecking/lock team. When they are trailing or tied, they’ll send two or three guys after the puck in a 2-1-2 formation. When they are ahead though, they lock it up with a 1-1-3 forecheck, a variation of the 2-3 lock. They are an overload/zone defense team depending on puck location. On special teams, they run a standard umbrella power play, but run a hybrid PK (box, diamond, wedge+1) depending on puck location and opposition formation.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 78: Staying hot in Colorado as the playoffs approach

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

The Rangers are in Denver tonight to take on the Colorado Avalance, who have recently passed the Chicago Blackhawks for second in the Central Division. The Avs are playing for home ice against the Hawks in the first round, while the Rangers are playing to keep the distance between them and the Flyers at three points. The Rangers beat the Avs once, and are fully capable of doing it again, even without Ryan McDonagh. If you’re scoreboard watching, the Flyers and Blue Jackets face each other tonight as well.

On the ice, the Avs run a very aggressive style of play. On the forecheck it is a straight 2-1-2 without sitting on leads. In the defensive zone, the Avs play straight man-on-man, so expect a lot of pressure and rushed/hurried decisions. On special teams, the Avs run a 1-3-1 power play and a hybrid penalty kill with very active defensemen.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 77: Alain returns to Vancouver

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

It’s almost fitting this game takes place on April Fools’ Day. What is sure to be a media circus today with a lot of foolish questions and baiting for jabs, hopefully the Rangers can see past the narrative and just go about their business to get the two points.

Under Tortorella, the Canucks play an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck and aim to keep the opposition pinned below the dots, similar to how the Rangers used to play. Although it hasn’t translated into a playoff spot, the Canucks have improved their Fenwick%, which is 9th in the league (up from 12th last year). So this team shouldn’t be taken lightly.

In the defensive zone, the Canucks play a zone defense and try to defend you in layers depending on puck location. On special teams, Gully has them playing a 1-3-1 power play. Sully is in charge of the PK and has them rotating between a box and a diamond formation depending on puck location.

This will be another good test for the Blueshirts as several potential playoff matchups employ a similar style of play (e.g., Penguins, Bruins, etc.).

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 76: Rebound in Edmonton

Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers gave away a golden opportunity on Friday night in Calgary, and lost two important points in the race to avoid the wild card. Tonight, they face another bad team that can’t play defense in Edmonton, and would truly benefit from two points, no matter how they come. Edmonton has more weapons than Calgary, the product of years of top picks, but they haven’t been able to put it all together just yet. This isn’t a must-win, but it is certainly a should-win.

Dallas Eakins coaches the Oilers in a very similar fashion to Patrick Roy and the Avalanche, so you will see a lot of the same tonight that you did on Tuesday. On the forecheck they run an aggressive spread 2-1-2 without sitting on leads. The Oilers play a man-on-man, zone defense hybrid depending on puck location. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 power play and rotate between a box and diamond penalty kill depending on puck location.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 75: Keep rolling in Calgary, make it six in a row

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

The Rangers are on their longest winning streak of the year, rattling off five wins in a row. Tonight they look to make it six in a row in Calgary against a Flames team that will have a bunch of balls in the draft lottery this year. I would say this has all the makings of a trap game, but the next game is against Edmonton. These are two games that the Rangers need to use to build confidence as they head to the playoffs.

Bob Hartley has the Flames running a 1-2-2 forecheck that can be used aggressively or conservatively depending on the game situation (time left in period, score, puck location, etc.).  In the DZ, Calgary uses a low zone collapse, taking out shooting lanes and keeping things in tight. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 and a diamond penalty kill.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 74: First round preview against Philly

Photo: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the season, it is all but guaranteed that the Rangers and Flyers will meet in the first round of the playoffs. Both teams have a > 95% chance of making the playoffs, with the Rangers at 98%. They have a 69% chance of meeting in the first round. Both teams are red-hot right now, with the Rangers winning four in a row and the Flyers on an 8-2-1 streak. New York is without Chris Kreider for an extended period of time, and this looks to be the exact matchup we will see in the first round.

The Flyers play a 2-1-2 forecheck, and once they get a late lead, they switch to a more conservative 1-1-3 left wing lock. In their own zone, the Flyers play a mix of zone and man-on-man defense, depending on puck location.On special teams, the Flyers run a 1-3-1 and an umbrella power play and a diamond force penalty kill with the strong side forward looking to pressure the point.

Rangers Lineup (unconfirmed, won’t know until game time):

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Game 73: Keep rolling against Phoenix

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

The Rangers may be shorthanded tonight, with both Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis battling flu symptoms. J.T. Miller has been recalled on an emergency basis in case both are unavailable. Regardless, the Rangers are heading into tonight with a firm grasp on the #3 seed in the Metropolitan Division. Minnesota Phoenix is no pushover, and is playing desperate hockey as they try to squeeze into the Western Conference wild card spot.

Under Mike Yeo, the Wild run a 1-2-2 forecheck which they use aggressively or conservatively depending on game situation. In the defensive zone they use a low zone collapse pretty much exclusively. The Wild prefer to attack the blue line with speed so the Rangers are going to have to be good defending the rush tonight and not leaving Talbot on an island. On special teams, the Wild run an umbrella power play and a diamond force penalty kill.

On the ice, Dave Tippett runs a very conservative style of play. The Coyotes run a 1-2-2 hybrid trap, which is something they’ve been running for some time down in the desert. They aren’t anything out of they ordinary when it comes to defensive zone schemes (zone defense), power play strategies (umbrella), or penalty kill formations (hybrid, depends on puck location/situation). This is a very passive hockey club that will capitalize on mistakes in the neutral zone.

My bad on this one folks. I need a vacation.

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Game 72: Build on the big win against the Devils

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Last night, the Rangers went out and beat a Columbus Blue Jackets team that was ahead of them in the standings with games in hand. Now, the Rangers hold a two point lead on the Jackets (yes, they still have a game in hand) and have the tiebreakers (ROW, head to head record) as well. As long as this club continues winning and getting points, the Blue Jackets will not be able to catch them. The Devils are tonight’s opponent, and building on that big win against a non-playoff team is critical.

The Devils employ a 1-2-2 forecheck which they’ll use aggressively in the offensive zone or passively in the neutral zone as a trap depending on game situation. In the defensive zone, Deboer employs a hybrid overload/zone defensive system depending on whether the puck is along the boards or at mid-ice.

On special teams, the Devils employ an umbrella/1-3-1 power playOn the penalty kill, the Devs rotate between a box and a diamond depending on puck location and the setup of the opposition.

Rangers Lineup (confirmed):

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Game 71: You guys really need to beat the Blue Jackets

Image from LoHud

Image from LoHud

Tonight it probably one of the biggest games of the year. The Rangers and Blue Jackets have been flip-flopping in the standings for a few months now. This time around, they are jockeying for playoff position –specifically avoiding a date with the Penguins or Bruins in the first round. Should the Rangers win, they will be two points up on CBJ with both tiebreakers, but the Jackets will have a game in hand. This is also Rick Nash’s return to Columbus, so there will be a bit of drama mixed in.

Under Todd Richards, the Blue Jackets run a 2-1-2 forecheck, but with less active defensemen. In the DZ, CBJ uses a low zone collapse, taking out shooting lanes and protecting the house. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 power play, and a box penalty kill.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 70: Senators vs. Rangers

Photo: Star Ledger

Photo: Star Ledger

Just when you think the Rangers have righted the ship, a goalie like Antii Niemi steals one for the opposition, and the Rangers are again left without points. That comfy second-place cushion is gone, and the Rangers are barely in a playoff spot. The Flyers and Blue Jackets have two games in hand, and the Caps are breathing down the Blueshirts’ necks. The Rangers have the benefit of a weak schedule over the last 13 games, but they need points. That needs to begin tonight against Ottawa.

The Sens forechecking strategy is a bit complex, as they are a hybrid forechecking/lock team. When they are trailing or tied, they’ll send two or three guys after the puck in a 2-1-2 formation. When they are ahead though, they lock it up with a 1-1-3 forecheck, a variation of the 2-3 lock. They are an overload/zone defense team depending on puck location. On special teams, they run a standard umbrella power play, but run a hybrid PK (box, diamond, wedge+1) depending on puck location and opposition formation.

Rangers Lineup:

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