Three keys for the Rangers in the playoffs

mats zuccarello

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.

1. Henrik Lundqvist

This is the obvious key. Lundqvist has not had a good year. But he’s been on of late, and they are going to need him to continue to be on his game. He doesn’t need to outduel Price, he just needs to keep up and allow the Blueshirts’ superior offensive depth get chances. Hank is certainly capable of stealing a few games, but his main role in this series –at least to me– is to keep up with Price.

Hank has had issues all year with letting in some soft goals. That simply cannot happen in the playoffs. Luckily Hank seems to have another gear when in the playoffs, so I’m not overly concerned. I’m not really concerned about playing in Montreal either. The Rangers beat them in Montreal in 2014. Plus, I don’t believe in curses.

This series begins and ends with Lundqvist. If he’s Lundqvist, the Rangers can win. If he’s not, they won’t.

2. Forechecking/Counter attacking

The Rangers’ entire system is built on forechecking and counter attacking. When they stop forechecking, they concede a clean breakout to the opposition, and then get pinned in their own zone. Their counter attacking game is built on the first forechecker in, then on the next two close to the blue line. Disrupting the breakout so they can counter attack and get high quality chances on Price is critical.

For the Blueshirts to be successful, they will need to create those neutral zone turnovers that get turned into odd-man rushes. That means team forechecking and three-zone defense to disrupt the passes and breakouts. Breaking up a zone entry and turning the rush is how the Rangers get their chances.

3. Staying out of the penalty box

This is the big one. The Habs are very top-heavy with a skilled powerplay, and have the best slap shot in the game at the point. The Rangers will need to stay out of the box.

But this goes beyond just the special teams. Staying out of the box means not taking lazy stick penalties. That means not allowing the Habs to skate through the neutral zone with speed and avoiding being pinned in the defensive zone. All of these lead to hooks, trips, and holds.

This point is tied to point #2, where the Rangers get in on the forecheck. Doing so disrupts the breakout, and makes it more challenging for the Habs to get speed through the neutral zone and sustain offensive pressure. It also forces the Habs to conform to the Rangers’ style of play, instead of the other way around.

Teams don’t win Cups by conforming to the opposition. They win by forcing teams to conform to their style of play.

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  • With the PK being so poor lately, the key to success is definitely staying out of the penalty box!!!!!!! I don’t know the stats, but based on the last dozen or so games, this has been our weakest area of concern for sure.

    As for Hank, if he doesn’t get the support he needs, he can’t be expected to carry the team for an entire series, and some. The offenses has to contribute big time, then also help out with the defense. Bottom line, it will take an entire team effort to have any chance of advancing to the next round!!!!!!!!!!

    Let’s see if the grossly overpaid suspects live up to their contracts………….

  • You are correct Dave. I would only add that our depth at the fourth line needs to give quality minutes. Whether it is keeping the opposition pinned in it’s own zone or throwing body checks, it needs to neutralize the opposition and not allow Montreal to always just throw out it’s 3rd defensive pair and just any forward line on the ice.

    Our top 3 lines, in 5v5 play should be able to play with Montreal. Guys like Krieder, Nash, JT and Hayes have to come to play. Grabner needs to wake up. The Habs are pretty quick and can easily exploit our defense if we get caught flat footed – we cannot allow too many odd man rushes, or we will be toast.

    I look for Lindberg and JT show some real value in this series.

    • No Stepan has to come and play, especially with no Brassard being around to lead the way anymore. Let’s be real with Hayes/JT about how they’re on the 3rd line seeing above 3rd line minutes. AV has said countless times of how he uses them and especially with Hayes against top 6 lines to help shutdown. I expect those two to produce but they pave the way for more of a easy match up for the top 6. They’ll start with a DZ draw and then apply pressure by either keeping the puck in the other end until the next line change or force a icing, we’re just spoiled that they produce on Kreids/Stepan’s level. Anyways that’s where one of the top 6 lines will need to score some points aka 6.5 Stepan.

      Gorton is going to expect that Stepan to step up this year in the post season to lead the team, no more little boy card or acting he shutdownthe top lines. He will need to look like every recent cup winning team if the goal is to win. He has to produce like the Bruins or Kings top 6 center’s. It’s hard enough to compare him to any of those guys but those are the none stars that have came up big for their clubs at least during 1 deep run.

      • Jack

        Stepan will do what he always does, get an assist, go 47% on face-offs and still be on the ice at crunch time, whether we think he deserves it or not. And come June, he will still be a NYR. They see things we don’t. I have resigned myself to the fact that he is a Ranger for life.

  • Just wanted to share a big Lets Go Rangers with the community here. I used to spend more time reading and posting, when I felt the articles were more illuminating and before the comments section was taken over by a peanut gallery of irrational AV haters. When Yandle and Dylan McJesus utterly flopped after leaving I thought maybe you guys would reassess, but I was wrong. You may be beyond redemption at this point, haha! Yes, the Rangers are fatally flawed on defense, but with the changes this summer, health, and a little luck, we should be raising a toast early summer NEXT year. At any rate, bleed blue and maybe the seas will part and we have an unexpected ride this year. Ya never know!!

    • Welcome back, Mythdoc. Was wondering where you went.

      I’m intrigued to see what happens this summer. If we see Girardi, Klein, and Holden all gone, I wonder what AV does. I can understand not feeling comfortable with Clendening, even if I disagree, but Gorton can force his hand with moves.

  • People are going to bitch and moan about whether Glass or Buch play but it won’t matter at all if the top players don’t know up!

    • Of course, and I personally don’t think it matters when the defense is a black hole. But it’s a hot topic that gets people emotional.

    • My two cents is that if Buch is going to play then put him where it can count so he can do his thing. I guess I’m advocating that he plays with Hayes and JT but two issues come to mind if that were to happen
      1) Hayes and JT get used against top lines in the tougher zone starts, AV probably wants Buch to think 100% offense and not with that much ice time against stiff competition.
      2) It would expose Glass through magic that this team doesn’t need him if somehow Buch played amazingly on the 3rd line. Then Grabs ad Fast’s speed and subtle offense clicks with Oscar giving this team a 4 line attack.
      3) F*** Glass, so many cheap shots have happened under his “watch”. He’s been the worst enforcer for the NYR ever since the lockout, yeah that’s right, Asham was better.

      • Glass will play in opener. Then, depending on the results, Buch may get a shot. For sure at home.

  • How much do y’all think the Kreider/Price incident will factor into this series? I imagine at least Pierre MacGuire is going to mention it, along with what high school McDonagh played for, and what kind of trapper Price is using, and he will definitely mention that Hank played for Frolunda and talk about how Forlunda produces so many stud NHLers…

    • “Habs fans care more.”

      Comment, more like understatement, the Habs and Fans have been talking about this since it happened, they still haven’t stopped…

      Dear Lord, Please let this happen again, please, I will goto mass twice a week!

  • Has Hank ever been this rested going into the playoffs?
    Nash this Healthy?

    I am hoping the maturity of some of our guys shows big time & they can hit high gear now in the post…

    Even Lindberg has looked better and more to his old form, hard injury to have!


  • Rangers won’t go anywhere if the top 6 centers don’t produced. Everybody wants to be a scholar about grit vs skill and which one would give the advantage in the post season. I still don’t know what that answer but the plain fact is that EVERY Stanley Cup champion as of late has had their top paid centers showing up. I hope Mika rises to the challenge, I watched the replays of him against MTL in the post season and he was just “alright” during most of the games. I personally don’t believe in Stepan or else he would have stepped up in 12, 14 especially and 15 but he was ghost in all of those final series when. I think after this season ends is when Gorton will look to switch up the leadership group. He would probably give Zucc the “A” so I hope Girardi, Staal and Stepan make it count for Hank.

    Someone tell Stepan to bring some of that Cally/Duby pride for once. We all know Kreids and Zucc will get jumped in this one early on so try helping them out?

    • Jack,
      Couldnt have said it any better!!!!! Especially this comment….’Someone tell Stepan to bring some of that Cally/Duby pride for once. We all know Kreids and Zucc will get jumped in this one early on so try helping them out?’
      I do not expect to see Stepan EVER be a difference in a game or series…..He just is not thta good……again….slow, non physical, no shot, no aggression, rarely goes into corners, loses big faceoffs…..
      I would love to see miller or maybe Nash at center and stepan sit out!!!!!
      After 6 years of watching him….he brings very little….certainly no leadership or physical play like Dubinsky!!!!!!!

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