Lundqvist, Girardi and McDonagh the key to Rangers hopes

Critically important. Ryan McDonagh. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Critically important. Ryan McDonagh. (Elsa/Getty Images)

It’s a pretty obvious statement to make but the Rangers’ top defensive pair of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi are critical to the Rangers hopes of progressing to the Conference finals and beyond. Dan Girardi and, particularly Ryan McDonagh, have been inconsistent in this series but a dominant performance from both – in addition to the assumed performance from Henrik Lundqvist – would go a long way in helping the Rangers clinch in Pittsburgh tonight.

The Rangers live and die by their defensive core. McDonagh was a plus one and logged over 26 minutes in the emotional game six victory Sunday and had a goal and assist and almost 27 minutes of ice time in game five. The result? Two huge victories and another game seven for the Rangers to look forward to.

The Rangers are a much tougher proposition when their top pair are on their games and following an indifferent start to the playoffs, McDonagh’s form is trending in the right direction. It has to continue tonight if the Rangers want success. This team can invest in as many offensive players as it wants but their success will always begin and end with players #30, #5 and #27.

McDonagh in particular has the ability to impact the Rangers in so many ways; it’s why he is a Norris Trophy candidate. When he is on, he is shutting down the opposition, producing on both special teams units and helping make Henrik Lundqvist’s life much easier.

The Rangers can expect to face a lot of pressure tonight, especially given the Penguins relative dominance in the face-off circle, so McDonagh and Girardi’s ability to continue to frustrate Sidney Crosby and minimalize the impact of Evgeni Malkin is series defining. Henrik Lundqvist advantage in net has been series saving.

The Rangers have survived without meaningful offensive production from Rick Nash, with a very hit and miss Derek Stepan and an inconsistent Marty St Louis to name a few, but it’s on the blueline and in goal where the Rangers have the advantage. The two units help each other.

When Lundqvist is at his best it allows the defense to play with more freedom, more confidence and gives the team a margin of error while when McDonagh and Girardi are on form Lundqvist isn’t as busy (or so the theory goes). The Rangers have received impressive postseason performances from the likes of Kevin Klein, Marc Staal and Anton Stralman so when their top pair are at the peak of their powers the Rangers have a great chance of success.

If Girardi and/or McDonagh have bad games tonight it could very well be the difference between a Conference Final or the end of the season . The Rangers won’t win the Cup because of their offense but they could go a long way this postseason because of their top defensive pair and their Vezina winning goaltender. It starts – or ends – tonight.

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  • I do not disagree with most of your statements, but being in Pitt, we can’t always get the right pair on the ice to defend Cindy and Malkin. I therefore believe more onus falls on Stall and Stralman, and the third pair. They need to defend at the top of their game, but also recognize the match-up and get to the bench ASAP.

    Hank needs to have a Hank game. Looking for Nash to breakout. No more posts tonight, only goals!

  • yeah buddy

    We need Hank to keep his form from Game 5 and 6. It is a tall task, but I fully expect him to perform at the level he has established that we should expect from him.

    We could make our lives much easier if we could pot one or two on the power play.

    I believe the Pens only have 1 power play goal this series. Our PK needs to continue to get it done.

    Rick Nash can make great strides tonight in quieting his critics if he has a big game. A goal or multi point night to fuel a victory would be CLUTCH. In the playoffs, many times clutch trumps consistent production in factoring into a player’s legacy (see Thorton, Joe). Tonight has the potential to be a big night for him.

    Brassard can continue his scoring streak and further supplant himself as one of my favorite current Rangers.

    Let’s get it done, boys. Pittsburgh has pretty much owned us since the 2005 lockout. This is our year to get some revenge and turn the tables. A regime change is very possible, should the Pens fail again this post season. It would be wonderful if it was our Rangers who put the final nail in that coffin.

  • I’m so torn on this game tonight. Honestly I feel pretty good about the Rangers. And that’s exactly what scares me. All night long all you will hear about is Hanks stats and record in game 7s and how awful Pitt has been in elimination games recently. But statistically, you don’t win every game just because of a track record.

    I hate Sidney Crosby. He is a whiner, a crybaby, and a cheap shot artist. With that said he is still the best player in te world. You can argue Malkin on some nights but we get the pleasure of facing both. But I have learned after watching the last Olympics that Crosby steps up in big games. All you hear is the pressure Pittsburgh is under and how will they cope with it. Well tonight will be no where close to the pressure that Canadian teamed was under at home in the Gold Medal game. And Crosby came out with the biggest goal of his career.

    Well let’s all buckle up for this roller coaster we are in for tonight. Let’s hope tomorrow we get a BSB article that has about 35 comments and not the typical 100+ that seem to follow playoff loses!

  • It needs to be a team win, everyone needs to bring passion and resolve to win it. Every player will be a factor

    • You are totally right. All 18 need to be pulling the same rope as the cliche goes. However, with a determined Pittburgh team with backs against the wall. Our top offensive players at the very least have to drive puck possession and create chances. It starts with Stepan. If he has a good game. Nash & Kreider will be dangerous. Having Kreider back is huge. No punn intended but he’s the biggest player on both teams. The 3rd line will do their thing Leather! As I said if you believe in the law of avg. Nash will find twine tonight and have a huge game. Kreider has his legs fresh. Big Game Brad could step up as well. Would help with the way Bylsma has to use his defense pairs.
      Last year the NYR went to DC and won their 1st game 7 on the road in franchise history. They were 0 for 5 before then. Now 1 for 6 in those games all time. In series they were down 3-1 we all know the Rangers have never came back to win that series in 16 tries all time. This stat is the one we break the goose egg for this year. It’s their destiny and it’s MSL’s destiny the Blueshirts will ride into the ECF. 5-3 NYR. ANYONE else have a prediction?

  • McDonagh has gotten much better since the game 4 loss. It was said on the MSG post game the locker room door was still closed to the media. So the leaders on the team must have had a long inspiring talk about how they weren’t playing their game. McDonagh must have listened because he (tho we all know he’s playing injured) has looked stronger. His skating was fine but he looked like he had no strength. I guess that’s due to the shoulder injury. He could be playing with the same injury Callahan had last season. Saying his shoulder kept coming out of its socket. In any event Mac looks much improved the last 2 games. Pushing guys off the puck.
    Nash is a career whatever % shooter. Maybe someone can fill in that blank but with 51 SOG 10% is 5 goals. I think with Kreider backing the defense off. It’s going to happen tonight. My prediction is he scores 2 or even the Hatty and the Rangers take this game 5-3 with the 5th goal coming on an Empty Netter from Nash for his 2nd or 3rd goal for the night. That could help set us up nicely for the ECF against Bos/Mon. I look at it with Nash this way. He has only gone 2 games since Kreider returned without scoring. That line is going to win the game for us offensively. I did hear that Mario Lemeux had a long talk with Crosby. Crosby down played it saying it was the same old talk. I think he told him to forget all the riff raff and go play. That would suck for us if he is focused and determined letting the after the whistle stuff go. We worked him up pretty good in games 5 & 6. The game 6 scrum at the end was done for game 7. Need to get Malkin involved in the pushing and chirping as well. They don’t play nearly as effectively in this situation.

  • I agree with a lot here. The major thing I don’t agree with is the last statement that:

    “The Rangers won’t win the Cup because of their offense but they could go a long way this postseason because of their top defensive pair and their Vezina winning goaltender. It starts – or ends – tonight.”

    You could argue this, but what makes this team dangerous is its depth scoring. It ability to have the stars step up one night and the soldiers step up the next. The second pairing defensemen playing great is also a balancing act. Without Stralman/Staal playing great tonight, it doesn’t make a difference how great McD/G play.

    Hank is hank, our D is one of the best and that alone can carry you to the cup finals and help you compete through 7 games. With a streak and collective scoring up and down the lineup, the Rangers can DEFINITELY win a cup this year.

    Before that though, we have tonights game and a whole other series. Cannot look ahead. We have 1 game, 1 objective and we are 1 team. We are the Classy, New York Rangers. Ignoring Hanks squirt of course 😉

    • That was gamesmanship on Hanks part. The Pens have played dirty classless hockey most of this series. That was brilliant IMO. It likely pissed the entire Pittburgh team off. That’s how you beat them in the playoffs. Philly created the blueprint in 11/12 and AV is quietly following the handbook. Crosby will try to block it out and go play but a few shifts with Dom Moore, Mac, and Giradi will get him bitching to the refs. We have to play a little out of character. be hard on the puck but be leagally gritty. Stay out of the box. Don’t give them the chances to score or gain momentum. As the Pens fight along the boards. Knock Crosby’s helmet off. Do whatever you have to. Shoot on Flower. He’s gonna be nervous with the last 3 playoff years in his mind. All it’ll take is a soft goal and then we have them right where we need them. I predict a goal from Nash sparking a hot streak. I just hope it has a chance to ride it in the ECF. Both teams are beatable in Boston or Montreal. We may be best off with Boston because of the fact Hank gets the Yips (as Mike Pelfrey once called 3 balks in a 1/3 of an inning) in Montreal. Would AV play Talbot in Montreal if it came to it. It’s 4 games there.

  • When all is said and done it will come down to Hank. He can’t afford any cheapies. No bad angle shots from the corner, no wraparounds because he was indecisive about going out after the puck. I’ve said it for 2 days now, he needs to go into the game with the mindset that he needs to pitch a shutout. The beginning of the game is huge, and if he stands on his head the team will feed off it. And if things go wrong early, he has to just play it shift to shift; have a short memory and move on. I really think this is a statement game for him and the rest of the team. Every Series has a defining moment; ours might have been that disaster in game 4. They haven’t looked that bad since that night. Keep playing the way they are, ride Hank as far as they can, and whatever happens happens.

  • I want to make a few comments on the Boston v. Montreal matchup and Hank but I just can’t. We have tonight to deal with first. The only comment I will say though, is if we do win, at least we get an extra nights rest with a W tonight. The schedule has turned in our favor a bit due to Montreal’s heart-brewed W last night. Lets go Rangers. Big Hanky Style!

  • The heart palpitations and sweaty palms have started already. The minutes seem like hours today at work…

  • I have no idea who will win tonight, but if the trio can put out a special performance tonight, we win!!

    As for that limp wrist, Nathan’s hot dog sucking cry baby, let him bitch all night long, while McD, and Dan shut him down again. All I want to do is laugh at that piece of dog poo poo, after the game, whining about how poorly we alll treated him. What a wimp, reminds me of their owner, another cry baby!!!!!!!

    For those who don’t remember Mario the wimp, he would moan, and groan about clutch, and grabby of the defenders who matched up against him. I understand that Cindy took personal lessons from Le Wimp on how to work the refs.

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