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.
Tonight is surely the beginning of the end for Dan Girardi as a Ranger. First of all because it is now clear to everyone that Girardi is no longer superhuman and the once-warrior is accumulating injuries like never before. Hey, this is what players past their sell by dates often do. Secondly Dylan McIlrath can surely do no worse even if he doesn’t excel, right? And thirdly, as mentioned yesterday the Rangers are trying to do the unlikely and jump in front of the speeding train that is Pittsburgh and get it to stop. Can the Rangers really continue with Girardi if they exit the playoffs early? Surely not.
If he is sheltered, Girardi can probably add value to a team where he better fits, where they may want a veteran presence, where he can player in a more friendly system and where the media glare is not so intense after every mistake. That’s the qualifier to this post.
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.
I’m not a pessimist, in fact I am usually quite the (complete) opposite but here’s a grim statement for all you Rangers fans out there: barring a remarkable turnaround in performance, momentum and decision making the Rangers will be enjoying the offseason in about ten days time.
Here’s another pretty bold statement for you: this season Henrik Lundqvist has saved Alain Vigneault his job. At first glance Lundqvist’s numbers are not their usual Vezina standard until you dig a bit deeper and see what incredible numbers he’s actually put up against the quality of shots he’s facing. Lundqvist has never had it harder and yet has never been more important to the Rangers success.
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.
The Rangers dropped the first game of their opening round matchup with the Penguins on Wednesday night, 5-2. Patrick Hornqvist lead the way for the Penguins, with a hat trick, and the Rangers lost Henrik Lundqvist to a scary eye injury. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were basically traffic cones all evening and the Rangers were shut down by a third string goaltender. As you can imagine, I have some thoughts…
1. Where else to start but with Hank? Forget the fact that the Rangers realistic chances of winning this series were all but hinged on Hank playing at a Conn Smythe level. Let’s talk about the injury itself. I have had the misfortune of experiencing something fairly similar, so I feel I can lend some perspective. My experience involved the opposite end of the stick, but it still belonged to my defenseman and still slipped through the bars on the cat’s-eye. My defender backed into me and it seemed like slow motion that the butt-end of his stick just continued coming until I could feel it make contact with my eye.
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.