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After a miserable showing in the first two games of this series, the Rangers have been dominant for the past two in evening the series up. Heading back to Ottawa, there have been several changes made by the coaching staff that has paid dividends on the scoreboard. Obviously, the players need to execute, but having an effective game plan can go a long way toward putting the players in a position to succeed.

There has been a lot of talk around here about adjustments, or lack thereof. We have seen specific weaknesses of this team exploited over and over again with seemingly no recognition from the coaching staff or front office. The thing about adjustments is that they are incremental. They are local. They matter in the minutia, as opposed to the big picture.

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nick holden

The performance of the Rangers’ defensive pairs has been a pain point for many this playoff season. Most Ranger fans agree that the Nick Holden/Marc Staal pair has been awful (I’ve written many words about them). That the Brendan Smith/Brady Skjei pair has been solid (and them). That Dan Girardi, while not exactly amazing, has had a better playoffs than anticipated. And Ryan McDonagh is awesome.

But is that really true?

The playoffs are a whole difference animal, where PDO has a huge impact on how we perceive performance. In the playoffs, which are essentially four mini seasons of seven games, you’re better off being lucky than good. Poor results overshadow great process. And great results overshadow poor process. There simply isn’t enough time for the numbers to correct themselves. It skews how we view success, and it’s completely expected.

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Categories : Analysis, Defense, Playoffs
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May
04

Thoughts prior to Game 4

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Photo Credit: AP / Paul Chiasson

The Rangers have a chance to tie the series tonight after getting themselves in an 0-2 hole. Considering the way they played in Game 3, anything is possible. This, of course, assumes that the coaching staff doesn’t get in their own way. But naturally, I have some thoughts.

1. Starting with the obvious, the Rangers need to ensure they play the same way they did on Tuesday in Game 3. Anything less and it gives the Senators room to make it a 3-1 series lead. They found what works, and they need to step on the Sens’ throats and push and not let up. Keep pushing with speed. Keep getting those key dumps to break the trap. Keep that pressure up. And most importantly, keep that cycle in the offensive zone. Craig Anderson is weak when you make him move. That’s nine goals in two games. Keep the pressure. Keep limiting the Senators to the outside.

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Categories : Playoffs
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Credit: AP / Fred Chartrand

We’ve all had a few days to let the dust from Game 2 settle. I’m sure a lot are still steaming over the in-game deployment choices by Alain Vigneault. I’m also sure there’s a good number of people who want the Rangers to come out firing on all cylinders tonight. I’m sure there are members of both factions too.

But despite the 0-2 series deficit, this is a pretty tight series. Game 2 went to double overtime with both teams playing fairly sloppy hockey. Game 1 was decided on a lucky bounce in the final ten minutes. So there are plenty of reasons to be positive heading into Game 3.

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Categories : Playoffs
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henrik lundqvist mark stone

Credit: AP / Sean Kilpatrick

The Rangers are in a pretty pickle right now, down 0-2 to the Senators and coming back to MSG for a must-win Game 3.The good news is that the series in not out of reach, and both games could have gone either way. The bad news is that the Rangers need some breaks. After the debacle that was Game 2, where terrible coaching, poor defense, and an off-night by Henrik Lundqvist cost them the tie, the Rangers need to make some adjustments to have a chance of coming back.

1. Goaltending

Sorry Hank, but you need to be the first item on this list. Hank did not have a good game on Saturday. He’s far from the main cause of the loss, as I went into yesterday, but when the Rangers score five goals, it’s a game you need to win. The weak first goal by JG Pageau really stands out to me as the type of shot Hank needs to stop. Does stopping that shot guarantee a win? Nope. But it’s one of those “what if” moments.

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Categories : Playoffs
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Apr
28

Thoughts following Game 1

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henrik lundqvist mark stone

Credit: AP / Sean Kilpatrick

The Rangers laid an egg last night in Ottawa, coming out slow and looking sloppy all night in a 2-1 loss. Henrik Lundqvist did the best he could to keep the Rangers in it, but penalties and luck kept him from doing so. Luckily it was only Game 1, and the goal for the Blueshirts is to come away with a split in Ottawa. They have a chance to salvage that on Saturday, but they can’t come out the way they did last night. As usual, I have some thoughts.

1. Last night’s game was oddly reminiscent of Game 3 against Montreal. It wasn’t as bad as that game, it wasn’t even close honestly, but the issues gave me bad flashbacks. There was no consistent forecheck. There was no consistent speed through the neutral zone. There was no sustained offensive pressure. Craig Anderson barely had to move, and most of his saves were pretty simple shots. It wasn’t Rangers hockey, and Guy Boucher made Alain Vigneault’s Rangers play right into their 1-1-3 trap (remember, it’s a 1-1-3, not a 1-3-1). The Rangers need to take a long look at themselves in the mirror and remember what they did in Games 4-6 against Montreal. That’s how they will win.

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Categories : Playoffs
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Apr
27

Thoughts heading into Game 1

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brady skjei jesper fast michael grabner

AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

Tonight the Rangers and the Senators drop the puck in Game One of the Atlantic Division Final. The Rangers, despite finishing with the better record, do not have home ice advantage. That might actually suit them well, as their record away from MSG is far better than at home. They took two of three in Montreal in the first round, so their road success has translated to the playoffs so far. But Ottawa is not Montreal, and I have some thoughts.

1. Ottawa is not Montreal. This is both good and bad. This is good because the Sens do not have Carey Price. However the Sens are a much quicker and more skilled club. The Rangers were able to keep up with Montreal because the Blueshirts’ defensemen could skate with the relatively slow Habs forwards. The Senators are much quicker up front, so the blue liners are going to have to be on their ‘A’ game. A lot of folks are thinking this will be a quick series, but I think every game will be a toss up. Henrik Lundqvist is going to be the determining factor in this series.

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Categories : Playoffs
Comments (39)
Apr
27

Scouting the opposition: Craig Anderson

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James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers are moving on to Phase 2 of their “skip the Metropolitan and tear through the Atlantic” master plan to win the Stanley Cup. Their next opponent is the Ottawa Senators. After dispatching an injury-riddled Bruins’ club in six games, the Sens aim to punch a ticket to the Conference Finals.

A big part of Ottawa’s success in the first round was the solid play of goaltender Craig Anderson. He has become something of a cult hero in the Canadian capital due to his wife Nicholle’s courageous battle with a rare form of cancer (nasopharyngeal carcinoma). Her treatments are progressing well from all accounts, and on a personal level, the Anderson family is easy to root for and we should all hope that everything ends well in a difficult circumstance. Read More→

Categories : Goaltending, Playoffs
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Apr
26

Rangers vs. Senators: Defense preview

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Erik Karlsson led the league in scoring by a defensemen three straight seasons from 2013-2016

Erik Karlsson is so good that you could make a case that he alone gives Ottawa the edge on defense over the Blueshirts.

The 26-year-old D-man is in the midst of his greatest season – which we seem to say every year. In addition to being the catalyst for the Senators’ offense, Karlsson has really rounded out his defensive play and is now a shutdown player in his own end, too.

Karlsson is averaging over 30 minutes a game so far during the playoffs and shows no signs of being hampered by two hairline fractures in his left foot. Keeping him in check may be the key to the series.

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Categories : Playoffs
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Apr
25

Rangers vs. Senators – Forwards Preview

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JUSTIN TANG / THE CANADIAN PRESS

It’s been well-documented at this point that the Rangers ousted the Canadiens in the first round by prioritizing skill throughout their lineup at forward.  Montreal was a well-coached team with outstanding goaltending, but they were simply unable to match New York’s depth.

Though they employ a structured, defensive style of hockey, the Ottawa Senators pose a very different challenge for the Rangers to deal with in the second round of the playoffs.  Head coach Guy Boucher is well-known for not just his neutral zone trap, but also juggling his lines.

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Categories : Forwards, Playoffs
Comments (35)