Archive for Playoffs
With the playoffs around the corner, much of the focus for the Rangers is on Alain Vigneault’s lineup choices. Much of the lineup is set. We know 11 of the 12 forwards. We know all six defensemen. But it’s that 12th forward that is drawing a lot of attention, and it’s an emotional topic for a lot of people.
Tanner Glass is the old-school, gritty hockey player that “stands up for teammates and deters others.” While we’ve seen others on the roster (Kreider, Vesey, Smith) step up for others, the focus is always on Glass because he represents a dying breed of hockey players. What he represents is the “blue collar” player. The one who throws his body around and gets in on the forecheck.
The regular season is basically over at this point, at least for the Rangers. The last two games of the year are meaningless. The Blueshirts are likely going to rest their guys more over those two games, so aside from getting Henrik Lundqvist up to speed, there’s not much riding on those games.
What we do know is that the Rangers are headed to Montreal for the first round. They are going to be a tough test, since they have been playing well lately under Claude Julien. They also have Carey Price. The Blueshirts are going to need to be firing on all cylinders to beat them. But there are three keys to the Rangers’ success in the first round.
As of Tuesday night, the Rangers sit four points back of the third place Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metro Division. Columbus has a pair of games in hand as well. Per Sports Club Stats, their chances of getting that coveted top wild card spot is at 91%. There is still a chance the Rangers get into the top three in the division, but it’s a slim one.
What that means for the Rangers is a date with either Montreal, whom they have not beaten this season, or Ottawa. The Sens are two points back of the Habs with two games in hand, so that division is still wide open. Either opponent is easier than any of the three-headed monster in the Metro, though.
It was a disappointing end to the season to say the least, with the shock of Rangers’ blowout loss to Pittsburgh away matched only by their previous two efforts at home. The game was microcosmic of the season – flashes of pomising play at the beginning, with defensive breakdowns and endemic failure getting worse over time. This loss was the kind of game where you wished for a mercy rule, not only for our sake, but for Henrik Lundqvist’s, who despite being the best Ranger of the past decade is sure to receive some of the blame for the Rangers’ early playoff exit this year.
This playoff series against the Penguins was troubling but unsurprising for many fans who had seen underlying issues with the team papered over by stellar goaltending all season. It was the kind of series that makes you worry that the window is just about closed, and it makes this offseason that much more critical for Jeff Gorton.
Could this be the final game of the season for the Rangers? Logic and past performance in these situations says no, but recent performance in this series says yes. If this is the final game of the series, then let’s hope it is one we can be proud of, as the Rangers have stunk the past two games. At the very least, make it a nice send off for Dan Boyle.
But then there’s the part of me that remembers what they’ve done the past two years. This is the third straight year they’ve been down 3-1 in a series. The core from both those comebacks is still here. But do they have the mindset required to make another comeback? They can, we know it. Let’s hope they figure it out. No one wants this season to end in April.
By now, anyone reading this site is painfully aware that the Rangers were embarrassed at the Garden last night, 5-0 by the Penguins and now stand on the brink of elimination. Combing various recaps, Twitter, the comments section, etc., has given me a (somewhat frightening) glimpse into the current psyche of the Ranger fan community.
In seeking out a topic for this post, once the dust settled, I found myself coming up empty. I really enjoy writing “thoughts” posts, but I don’t think I could really organize my thoughts in a way that would make for worthwhile reading. I feel like it would just read like a laundry list of complaints.
Instead, I think I’m just going to write, and see what comes out of my brain that is Ranger-related and see how that goes. Work for everybody? Good.
The Penguins destroyed the Rangers last night before the first period was over. It was 1-0 a minute into the game. Then before we blinked it was 3-0. They added another in the second. But the game was over before all this. It was over before the Rangers even took the ice.
The Rangers just didn’t show up. They lost every puck battle. They lost every race for the puck. They gave the Pens room. They didn’t bother to try and generate offense. They just didn’t bother trying.
This game hurts as a fan. The players shrug it off as a job, because that’s what last night looked like. A job. Fans, on the other hand, this isn’t a job. For some, this is an escape. This is hope for joy. And the Rangers let everyone down. There is no excuse for this kind of effort.
Well the Penguins completely shut down the Rangers in Game Three, allowing just a shorthanded goal to Rick Nash. Tonight the Rangers will look to avoid falling down 3-1 in a series for the third straight year. To do so, they will need to adjust their offensive strategies to account for the Penguins clogging the neutral zone and slot area.
More specifically, the Rangers are going to have to get a few dirty goals. They are a skilled team, but with the Penguins taking away their space to skate, they will need to just throw pucks at the net, hope for bounces, or bang home rebounds. This is how they’ve won in the playoffs in the past, and this year is no different.
Game Three is here, with both teams looking to take that all important 2-1 series lead. The Rangers have been dominating possession against the speedy Pens, playing a heavier game and neutralizing their speed. Their sloppy defense in Game One was shored up in impressive fashion in Game Two.
Both teams are playing games with each other regarding injuries. Marc-Andre Fleury may be back. Ryan McDonagh may be back. What we do know is that Dan Girardi is not back, and one of Dylan McIlrath or Raphael Diaz –who was just recalled– will sit. We won’t know until game time though.
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.