The Rangers are facing their first elimination game of the postseason tonight, down 3-2 to Ottawa with Game 6 tonight at MSG. To be bluntly honest, this series should be over already, but the Rangers have been unable to hold a lead in two games, thus giving the Senators a ton of momentum and life in a series that they have led for just 13 minutes. But them’s the breaks in the playoffs. Naturally, I have some thoughts.
1. Of course I have to start with Alain Vigneault. I stand behind my assertion that this series would be over if AV got out of his own way. He was quoted stating that experience only matters if you’re executing, but the experience he is relying on is not executing. It’s time to change things up. If AV adjusts his deployments, doesn’t staple Brady Skjei to the bench, and sits Marc Staal if/when defending a lead, then the Rangers have a legitimate shot. If not, then the players need to outplay their coaches mistakes.
2. Speaking of the players, they all need to execute. Rob brought up a very good point about the tying goal in Game 5, which shouldn’t had happened if the forwards (Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Tanner Glass) did their jobs and stopped the cross-ice pass from Erik Karlsson. Those little plays are the ones that stop the puck from winding up int he back of your net. It’s what the Rangers did so well in Games 3 and 4, and what they failed to do in Games 2 and 5. A total team commitment to defense, meaning no one takes a night off, is needed.
3. Also noted by Rob in his post, this team needs to rally behind Zuccarello’s quotes that everyone needs to be in desperation mode. The fact that this needs to be said astounds me, since every playoff game should be desperation mode. That’s the only way you can close out a team. Every single player out there needs to remember to play on every shift, which is sad that this needs to be said.
4. Henrik Lundqvist is going to have to bail his teammates out. They are going to make mistakes. That we know. However he is going to have to make every save he should, most of the saves he shouldn’t, and some of the saves he has no business making. It’s the sad reality for Henrik Lundqvist, who is dealing with a blue line that is not only old and slow, but not even deployed properly.
5. The good news is that Ottawa has led for about 13 minutes this series. The Rangers have, for the most part, controlled the series. But therein lies the beauty of the playoffs. You don’t necessarily need to be the better team in the series. If you have a little bit of luck –a goal from an impossible angle that deflects twice, two posts keeping the puck out late thus allowing you to tie the game, a tying goal that deflects off three players– you can win the series. The Rangers haven’t gotten those bounces yet. Hopefully that changes soon.
6. Just win.