(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
The Rangers dropped a disappointing OT game to the Montreal Canadiens last night, by a score of 3-2. The Rangers dominated possession and shots on goal, but came up just a little short. Dustin Tokarski played fantastic and the Habs got just enough lucky bounces to the cut the series deficit in half. In the aftermath, I thought I’d share some…well, thoughts.
- As I mentioned (and Dave’s Fenwick chart shows), the Rangers dominated possession from start to finish. This is usually a recipe for winning a game, but Dustin Tokarski threw a wrench into that.
- It’s Tokarski’s upside that was the basis for Michel Therrien to give him the nod over Budaj when Price went down. Tokarski flat out stole that game and is the only reason we aren’t breaking out the brooms on Sunday.
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Dom Moore: Hugely deserving of a new deal this summer (Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI)
The Rangers are within two wins of the fan base going crazy with excitement. With the danger of looking too far ahead, let’s keep it sane and throw up a musings a day early shall we?
So much in sport depends on timing. Success is so often about peaking at the right time. In Henrik Lundqvist the Rangers have the best goalie in the world playing at the very top of his game. A (the?) leading Conn Smythe candidate, the Rangers have a huge advantage when he’s on his game. Right now it’s on fluke deflections that seem to be his undoing.
We’ve discussed it before, but the way he’s elevated his game (even further) in recent weeks it needs saying again; the Rangers have to keep Dominic Moore beyond this season, don’t they? Moore has beyond a strong penalty killer, a great defensive presence and has chipped in with leadership, some offense and filled in admirably for Derick Brassard. He’s a keeper.
Prediction: Ryan McDonagh will win a Norris trophy within the next four years. Not a wild prediction.
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The best there is
Since there’s absolutely no chance of me putting together a coherent post in the wake of that Game 7, I’m going to share some thoughts in bullet point form instead:
- Henrik Lundqvist really struggled at the start of the season, but he was Vezina-caliber in the second half and raised his game again in the postseason. The bozos that have argued that Lundqvist isn’t elite because he hasn’t won a Cup can say whatever they want – Lundqvist’s performance last night speaks for itself. That was as outstanding a game as you’ll see from a netminder.
- It’s really hard to tell just how good this team is. Obviously we know they won’t ever make anything easy on themselves, but it’s also miraculous that they’ve reached the Eastern Conference Finals despite getting next to nothing offensively from two of their top offensive players – Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. New York’s depth players have been underappreciated for a long while, but they’ve really stepped up through the first two rounds. If the team had gotten even a little bit of production from Nash and Stepan, they probably wouldn’t have had to go to seven games in one or both of their first two matchups.
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Gene J. Puskar — AP Photo
The Rangers took Game One on Friday night in dramatic fashion, scoring twice in overtime for the 3-2 win. With Game Two coming tonight, the first of a back-to-back and the fourth of a four-in-five for the Rangers, that Game One victory was critical. The only way the Rangers stood a chance in this series was to –at the very least– get the split in Pittsburgh. Naturally, winning tonight and coming home with a 2-0 would be ideal. But the Penguins won’t play the same type of game they played on Friday night.
There were too many thoughts I had following Game One, so it only made sense to do a brain dump in a musings format.
- The Rangers scored two goals because the Penguins didn’t cover the slot. The Brad Richards goal was the direct result of Matt Niskanen coming over to help Olli Maata instead of sticking Richards in the slot. The overtime winner came from Sidney Crosby deserting the slot to get to Benoit Pouliot, who intercepted Rob Scuderi’s pass behind the net. Regardless, the Penguins won’t make those mistakes again.
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As Rangers fans bask in the glory of a scrappy but successful series victory over the Flyers there’s not much time to look ahead to the Pens series. With that said, we thought we’d share a few thoughts on the Rangers so far.
Benoit Pouliot coming on strong
Pouliot has taken costly penalties and is anything but a complete player, but as the year has gone on Pouliot has developed into a core Ranger. As part of the Rangers’ best line for most of the season Pouliot has to be retained. His goal against the Flyers was a great example of why the Rangers need him. Pouliot drove to the net and was rewarded after a great pass from Zuccarello. It’s a simple concept but not enough Rangers get to the dangerous areas, Pouliot did and was rewarded. He should (and surely will be) rewarded with a new deal.
Stralman was immense in Game 7 against the Flyers. Games like that are why the Rangers should find a way to keep him, but those types of all action performances aren’t quite frequent enough to warrant the money Stralman will likely demand. When he’s on his game he can make a good first pass, he’s a good skater, he is willing to throw his body in front of pucks and is a pretty smart hockey player to boot. It’s a shame he can’t put all those aspects together consistently.
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Hey Suit – You’re Welcome
Before I get started with today’s topic, I first want to take moment to thank Danny Carcillo for making me look good. Last week I called for AV to scratch Fast for Carcillo for Game 3. Most slayed the idea. Then Game 4 happened.
Back to this week’s topics!
Today we’re reaching into our mailbag, aka our Twitter mentions to answer questions from our faithful readers.
Q. What do the Rangers have to do to put the Flyers away in Game 6? – @Rangrs2000
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It’s funny how the playoffs work. During the regular season, sample sizes grow and long-term narratives take hold. Discussions emerge, debates rage and quantitative analyses are produced. The playoffs are a whole different animal. Most factors surrounding playoff teams are fleeting. Only as relevant as the last game. This makes life exceptionally difficult on hockey writers. Especially when your piece could become completely irrelevant in the next twenty-four hours.
At BSB, we prefer to take the long view and allow our analysis to play out over the appropriate sample. This is difficult this time of year, and the luxury of research and trial and error aren’t guaranteed. It’s this phenomenon that has grown my fondness for these “thoughts” posts. You may think that they are very similar to Chris’ musings posts. You’d be wrong. His are better. But for now, you’re stuck with me. Here are some Ranger related thoughts heading into Friday’s clash in Philly…
- It’s really nice to see Marty St. Louis coming to life in these playoffs. He is so sneaky and elusive that the suspect back line for the Flyers can’t do much about him, especially with Nash on the ice to worry about. Still not a fan of giving up the first round picks when Slats kinda had Yzerman dead to rights in negotiations, but I think St. Louis will be a huge factor in any success the Rangers have this postseason.
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Had three questions arrive via Twitter over the past few days, and since I had absolutely no idea what to write about, I figured I’d answer them in a post. Then I posted that I had no idea what to write about for this morning, and a few more questions came in. So….thank you guys for helping me with this one. Much appreciated.
Should still be bought out. (Photo: Rangers)
Q: Should the Rangers still use their last amnesty buyout on Brad Richards, even if he is productive and helps them win a Cup (in a hypothetical situation)?
The answer here, without any hesitation, is yes. The problem with Richards isn’t his production (at the moment…but it’s declining). It isn’t his cap hit. Heck, it isn’t even his spot in the lineup. It’s the fact that his contract back-dives, and if he retires early then the Rangers are on the hook with one helluva penalty. For each year he retires early (contract is up in 2020), the Rangers will be hit with $5.6 million in dead cap space. Throw in his declining production, puck possession, and foot speed, and the Rangers will either be stuck with dead cap space or a $6.6 million healthy scratch in the next 2-3 years. It’s just not worth it.
Q: How important is Game Four, and to come home with a 3-1 series lead?
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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
• I’ll admit, it was really disappointing to see the Flyers strike first after such a dominant chance/possession showing in the first period by the Rangers. Hartnell’s hit on McDonagh that directly lead to McDonald’s goal was the stuff nightmares are made of. Fortunately, the Flyers abandoned the hard, forechecking physicality in favor of stupid stick penalties.
• Philly looked to have a bit of whiplash from the Rangers’ three scoring lines. Clearly, their priority pre-game was to shut down the St. Louis-Stepan-Nash line, but every time they turned their attention there, they got burned by Zuccarello or Richards or Hagelin.
• The first two periods were something of a microcosm of the Rangers season: tantalizing chances, high possession and yet no goals. Ray Emery made some half-decent saves, but it would have been really nice to be up 3-1 in the first or second.
• There really wasn’t a weak link the lineup last night. I thought all three defensive pairs acquitted themselves well, and the forward lines looked balanced and moved the puck exceedingly well. Read more »
RMcD = MVP? Photo Credit: LoHud
Today is the day a rivalry gets renewed. The Rangers entertain the Flyers tonight in a much anticipated series. Let’s throw a few musings up.
The series against the Flyers represents a no-win situation for the Rangers. In all honesty, there is not a huge amount separating the two teams but yet everyone expects the Rangers to win. The Flyers have a ton of talent but are very flawed. That said, it wouldn’t be the greatest of shocks if they beat the Rangers but it would cause serious fall-out in New York.
Is there a single Ranger forward you wouldn’t swap for Claude Giroux?
Beyond the obvious (Hank, McD, Nash), who holds they key to the second round for the Rangers? Mats Zuccarello. He has been the Rangers best powerplay forward all year and you have to assume the Flyers will take more penalties than the Rangers. If the Rangers can stay out of the box and Zuccarello can work some PP magic that may be the decisive factor.
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