Monday, April 16, 2012

Rangers Get Set For Game 3 In Ottawa, Alfredsson A Game-Time Decision

The news from practice today is that apparently Daniel Alfredsson has turned into Wolverine from the X-Men and has developed supernatural healing powers. That's the only way to explain how the Senators' team captain skated through a full practice this morning and will officially be a game-time decision tonight after supposedly suffering a concussion for the second time this season against the Rangers on Saturday night.

The Senators are still sticking to their original story that Alfredsson did in fact suffer a concussion in Game 2 and based a base-line test yesterday, but I personally don't believe it for one second.

Click below to read more news and notes on Alfredsson possibly playing tonight, along with who the Rangers might will dress in Carl Hagelin's place.

It's pretty clear that the Senators lied to the NHL and everyone else when they said Alfredsson suffered a concussion and would be out indefinitely. I don't even think there's any question about that. Nobody suffers a concussion and plays in a game 48 hours later without even missing a single practice. But if anybody is really to blame here it's Brendan Shanahan and his asinine disciplinary policy. Hagelin's suspension should not have been made based on the fact that Daniel Afredsson might be injured (and even if he was, the ruling was still disgraceful, which I'll really delve into in a separate blog post later in the week). The Senators played Shanahan like a fiddle and he fell for it. Is it morally wrong and disrespectful to the game to lie or exaggerate the severity of an injury? Of course. But the fact of the matter is that there's nothing the Rangers can do since the NHL's disciplinary policy is a complete and utter joke that teams can easily take advantage of.

The Rangers, meanwhile, had no comment on the fact that Alfredsson might play tonight, nor did they reveal their line combinations for Game 3 tonight. They'll need to add somebody to the lineup, of course, since Carl Hagelin will being serving the first of his three-game suspension tonight. Andrew Gross did reveal this bit of information from practice on who might play tonight, though:

If you’re looking for conspiracy theories, here’s one: Scott had a nameplate above his locker this morning. Chris Kreider did not. Neither did Steve Eminger (out with a sprained right ankle) or defenseman Jeff Woywitka, who has not played since March 2, which was the only time he has played since Dec. 30.
Andrew Gross

What does it all mean? Maybe something, maybe nothing.

Personally, I would be surprised if John Scott is in the lineup tonight. I was listening to an interview with Newsday Rangers beat reporter Steve Zipay on Evan Roberts' show on WFAN Saturday morning, and Zipay said he couldn't imagine a scenario in which John Scott would be reinserted back into the lineup. The Rangers and John Tortorella are apparently not happy with his conditioning level and how slow of a skater he is. Granted, that was before Carl Hagelin got suspended, but still. If Torts dresses John Scott tonight it will strictly be for his veteran presence and to send a message that the Rangers are prepared to goon it up if the Senators try to bring that game again. The Senators also had projected line combinations up at this morning's skate for the Rangers that included Kreider. I'm sure Torts has heard and seen that information floating around, so that might be another reason for him to stay away from Kreider and go with John Scott, since the Senators clearly aren't expecting to see him in the lineup. My gut feeling still tells me they'll go with Kreider since this is really the main reason they signed this kid days after his college season ended.

Here are some of my thoughts on what the Rangers must do in order to win tonight's game:

- Don't goon it up. I don't think the Senators are going to play as physical as they did in Game 2 since the series is now tied and they essentially played Game 2 as if their backs were up against the wall. But now that the series is tied, the Rangers have to stay out of the box and get back to playing their game. That doesn't mean don't stand up for your teammates and don't play physical; just do it in a smart way. I guess what I'm saying is the Rangers shouldn't look to start the cheap stuff, but if it comes to that then they absolutely have to finish it.

- The power play must be better. It's not even a question. The Rangers failed to make the Senators pay for acting like a bunch of thugs, and only converted on one of their power plays on Saturday night. If the Rangers are going to get the opportunities, they have to put up more power play goals, simple as that.

- Do not sit back on an early lead, should you have one. By "early lead" I mean any lead within the first 55 minutes of the game. If the Rangers want to tighten up on defense and play in their own zone with five minutes left in the game, that's understandable. But sitting back and letting any team come right at you is not a smart way to play, no matter who your goaltender is. The Rangers obviously have a ton of faith (and rightfully so) in Henrik Lundqvist to stop anything and everything late in games, but very rarely do you see teams play that way and hold onto win. The Rangers need to keep coming at Ottawa and bring offensive pressure instead of sitting back and letting them fire away at Lundqvist.

- 60 minute team effort. We saw it in Game 1 and again in Game 2, although not as badly. The Rangers need to have a full 60 minute team effort playing their style of game. If they get off to a slow start and allow Ottawa to take control early, things could get out of hand quickly. You never want to get off to a bad start and find yourself in an early deficit on the road, and you especially don't want to in the playoffs.

- Overall: just keep on doing what you've been doing over the course of the season. The Rangers have to play their style of hockey that's gotten them to this point. That means going in hard on the forecheck, blocking shots, battling for loose pucks and letting Hank handle the rest. The Rangers could be up 2-0 in the series right now, and if it comes down to them having a one-goal lead late in the game I have full confidence in them to come out on top.

But the time for talk is just about over. Game 3 gets underway from Ottawa tonight at 7:30.

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