Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rangers Lose Game 6, Will Play Game 7 Saturday Night

Here we go again. The Rangers and Capitals will meet in Game 7 on Saturday night after the Caps fought off elimination and defeated the Rangers 2-1 tonight. I'd like to say that the Rangers played a hard fought game and just couldn't come out on top tonight, but if I did I'd be lying. The Capitals just looked like the better team from the start, and the Rangers looked like they were sleepwalking.

Click below to read more on my thoughts on Game 6, and what the Rangers need to fix and do differently heading into Game 7.

 Honestly, losing this game infuriated me. It looked right from the first period like the Rangers had no jump in their game and just wanted to go back to the Garden for Game 7. The Capitals simply wanted this game more than the Rangers did and the Rangers did absolutely nothing to match their intensity in this game. If the Rangers came to play and just got outplayed and lost I could live with it, but what really ticks me off is that they didn't bring their A-game and played like they didn't care about this game because they had Game 7 to fall back on. They just looked slow, their shot qualities were awful, and they went several stretches where they let the Caps just cycle the puck in the Rangers' zone for as long as they wanted. I'd have to think, and hope, that the Rangers play a much, much better game on Saturday. If they don't play with a much higher level of intensity and take advantage of the home crowd's energy early, their season will likely be over. But as I said, I fully expect them to come out flying in Game 7. If they don't bring their A-game for Game 7 then there's something seriously, seriously wrong here.

The Rangers power play is so bad that it's gotten to the point where it's a small victory if they just get more than two shots on goal with a man advantage. This game felt like it was over when the Rangers failed to score, or even get any quality chances, on a double-minor in the second period when John Mitchell got caught with a high stick. You have guys wasting a majority of the power play passing the puck on the outside perimeter and the looking for deflections that aren't there. Michael Del Zotto, in particular, was awful tonight. The only shots I remember him taking on the power play were either wide or wrist shots from the point that were easily knocked down in front and cleared. I have no idea why John Mitchell is getting any power play time over Chris Kreider, or anybody outside of Mike Rupp, really. There are just so many things wrong with the power play that I really don't even know what the Rangers have to do to fix it at this point. I just hope Glen Sather looks into bringing in somebody from outside the organization to be in charge solely of fixing the power play next season because it's clear what the Rangers have right now isn't working.

Chris Kreider should be getting way more ice time. Yes, he made a terrible giveaway that gave the Capitals Game 4, but he obviously has way too much offensive upside to be getting four minutes a game. If John Tortorella isn't going to play him, what was the point in wasting a year of his Entry Level deal?

The Rangers obviously need to rely on Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, and Ryan Callahan to be their top offensive guns, but the lack of production they've gotten out of their third and fourth lines has been nonexistent. Ruslan Fedotenko, Brian Boyle, Brandon Prust, Mike Rupp, Carl Hagelin, and John Mitchell have combined for a grand total of one assist in this series, although I hate to throw Hagelin's name in that group since he has been making things happen offensively with his energy level and speed. You simply cannot have that many players that are detrimental to the team's offense. I know most of those guys are leaned on for their PK skills, but when you have a team that struggles to score as much as the Rangers I think it's vital to have some of the third and fourth liners to step up with a goal every now and then.

If there's any positives to take from this game it's that Henrik Lundqvist was his usual stellar self in goal, and the way the Rangers played in the third period. They put forth way more effort trying to get pucks to the net in the third period, and that's how they scored their lone goal in the final minute of the game; it was a shot by Marian Gaborik that went off the backside of a Caps player in front of the net and bounced into the net. Why they didn't play with that type of intensity in the first and second periods, I have no idea. I thought getting a goal on Braden Holtby was big. Letting him get a shutout on a night where most of the shots he faced were poor chances would've been a real confidence boost heading into Game 7. But that's it. I'm not going to pretend the Rangers did a ton of things right and deserved to win this game because they clearly didn't. In fact, they're actually lucky they only lost 2-1 considering how one-sided the game was the first two periods.

Game 7 is Saturday night at Madison Square Garden on NBC, and the game will be at either 7:30 or 8 p.m. from what I understand. I heard on the radio today that no team has ever won the Stanley Cup after going to a Game 7 twice in the same postseason. If the Rangers are going to end this season the way we all want them to, they'll need to make history to do it.

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