Monday, May 20, 2013

Rangers Drop Game 2 To Bruins, Trail Series 2-0

The New York Rangers dropped their Game 2 match up with the Bruins by a score of 5-2 earlier today. That means for the second consecutive series, the Rangers find themselves down 2-0 with everything riding on the line as they return home for a pivotal Game 3 on Tuesday night at the Garden. Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves, while Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash were the goal scorers for the Rangers.

Before I get to the game itself, a quick note on the health of Henrik Lundqvist. Apparently there was a deflected shot late in the third period that Lundqvist dove to cover and he seemed to jam his left shoulder on the play. I say apparently because I was so disgusted with the way this game went that I turned it off before this happened. Lundqvist was seen rotating his arm and trying to flex it throughout the next few minutes, and after the game he told the media:

“It’s my shoulder, we’ll see,” said Lundqvist, who also rubbed his shoulder area a couple of times while speaking to the media. “We’ll take a look at it.”
 Rangers Rants

The team obviously needs Lundqvist to be 100 percent and at his best if they expect to make a serious run at rebounding in this series. I have to imagine that if it was anything serious John Tortorella would've pulled Lundqvist since the game was well out of hand by the time it happened. With the Rangers' season pretty much on the line on Tuesday, I'd say there's no way Henrik Lundqvist isn't starting in net unless this was a truly serious injury.

And now, onto the game. Right from the beginning it was clear that this was not going to be a good game - at least to me it was. The Rangers gave up four odd-man rushes within the first 10 minutes or so of the first period and seemed like they were scattering to get back on defense all game long. The Bruins clearly made adjustments to move the puck up the ice quicker to counter the Rangers' strong forecheck while the Rangers seemed to make no adjustments in their game plan. Soon enough the game turned into a shoot out, and when that happens the Rangers aren't going to win. Nobody was good on defense, but the pairing of Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi was especially atrocious. Del Zotto finished the game with a minus-3 rating while Girardi had a minus-4 in what was quite possibly his worst game as a Ranger. It was more of the same with Del Zotto pinching too deep in the offensive zone and failing to get back and take his man, while Girardi just made some uncharacteristic mistakes, like looking at the puck on the Bruins' third goal while letting Brad Marchand skate right to the front of the net untouched. With Marc Staal hurt, I said that Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi would have to play flawlessly while Anton Stralman and Michael Del Zotto needed to pick up the slack. Neither of that happened today, and for the most part Del Zotto has been terrible all throughout the playoffs.

And so, the Rangers are once again faced with a must-win game Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. I don't think the Rangers have played terribly in this series, but they have just had way too many defensive lapses to overcome thus far. They need to play a tight defensive game and give up as little as possible, and that hasn't happened in either game of this series so far.

Other thoughts and notes from today's game:

- Stop me if you've heard this one before: the Rangers went 0 for 5 on the power play, which easily killed any chance they had of getting back in this game early. I'll admit that the power play looked better today, but the result was the same. If the Rangers had even a mediocre power play it would be a huge upgrade at this point and would probably change the course of several tight games. To me, the missed opportunities with the man advantage is pretty much always the turning point of any game the Rangers lose. They're now an unbelievably bad 2 for 36 on the power play in the postseason, which comes out to a 5.6 percent success rate. It's amazing the Rangers are still playing hockey given how terrible those numbers are. The Rangers could've easily gotten themselves back in this thing and tightened up on defense the rest of the way if the power play converted even just once. It's a momentum killer and is beyond a huge problem. I just don't see how you plan on winning a Stanley Cup when you can't make other teams pay for giving you chance after chance on the power play. As much as I dislike Pierre McGuire, I do agree with him when he says that at this point the power play struggles have to be schematic, and that goes back to the coaching staff. It can't possibly be a coincidence that every player that's tried out on either power play unit winds up struggling.

- John Tortorella said following the Caps series that he thought the Rangers played their best games of the series in Games 6 and 7 when the team was fighting to stay alive and Torts told them to just go out and play their game and to have fun. I don't know what has changed, but it's clear the Rangers have not played that way so far in this series. It seems to me that maybe the team is overly focused and trying too hard that they're messing up in areas they usually excel at. I really don't have any other guesses on why they could possibly be making some of the mistakes they've made in this series. For a team that pays such attention to defensive hockey to have these types of breakdowns in their own zone is scary to me. In the three games they lost to the Capitals in the quarterfinals there were areas where they made mistakes, but it was never as constant and blatant as the ones they've made in these two games.

- Henrik Lundqvist wasn't terrible today, but he certainly wasn't good, either. The ridiculous amount of defensive zone breakdowns certainly didn't help him, and are on the Rangers' defenseman more than Lundqvist himself, but I thought the Bruins' first goal scored by Torey Krug and their third goal scored by Johnny Boychuk are both shots that Lundqvist stops when his game is right. Even the goal from Brad Marchand, which was almost identical to his overtime goal in Game 1 that Lundqvist thought he should've stopped, was one Hank probably stops. For the most part, though, the Bruins had traffic in front of the net all game long and the Rangers' defensemen did nothing to clear the front of the net. Lundqvist was constantly being screeened and had to fight through traffic just to be able to see pucks. The King will need to return to form, as will his defensemen in front of him, for Game 3.

- Derick Brassard was held scoreless, which snapped his six-game point scoring streak in the playoffs (two goals, eight assists, 10 points during that span).

- Ryan Callahan did almost everything he could to try and get the Rangers back into this game. He scored a breakaway goal on a sick move, blocked a ton of shots and was hitting everything in sight. He also setup Derek Stepan on a beautiful pass from behind the net that hit the post. This was certainly one of those games where the Rangers needed their captain to lead by example, and he did as much as he could. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough.

- In maybe the only bit of good news to come from today, this was easily Rick Nash's best game thus far in the playoffs. Not only did he finally score his first goal, but he seemed to be much more active and noticeable on every shift. He was skating much better and controlling the puck with more authority, too. If the Rangers want to get back into this series they'll have to hope this was a sign of good things to come.

- After saying Carl Hagelin "stinks" on the power play because he's too fast (?), John Tortorella  apparently had a change of heart and gave Hagelin 46 seconds of power play time late in the game when the Rangers were trailing and in dire need of a power play goal. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.

- Chris Kreider played 7:52 in today's game with 2:02 coming on the power play. It's hard to be expected to produce on the power play when you don't get a chance to really get into the flow of the game with regular even-strength shifts. Personally, I would move Kreider up to play on the first or second line at this point. Why not?

- John Moore finished with 10:21 TOI with zero power play or penalty kill time. I think all Rangers fans like myself have been clamoring to give this kid more power play time and let him play his game, but the coaching staff has remained loyal to Michael Del Zotto and Brad Richards manning the points despite getting zero contributions from them. After playing what I thought was his best stretch of hockey as a Ranger during the quarterfinals against the Capitals, Moore has looked very tentative these first two games and hasn't been as aggressive in joining the rush or chipping in on offense.

That's it for today. More to come tomorrow when the Rangers return home for practice. I wouldn't be surprised if we see some line juggling, but none of it matters if they show up on Tuesday and play the way they did (or didn't) today.

6 comments:

  1. good post.

    a couple of key injuries to Staal and Clowe coupled with the under-use of Kreider and Moore is making this team look pretty shallow talent-wise.

    Sounds like Clowe and Staal are done for the season, I would like to win a few more games this season, but I wouldn't be shocked by a sweep after this one.

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    Replies
    1. I agree. The younger players just haven't been managed well enough by the coaching staff. Based on everything we've seen from Del Zotto, he should not be getting as much time as he's been given time and time again. John Moore should be a staple on the power play and should be getting at least 15 minutes a game. He and Del Zotto should be about equal in ice time. The losses of Clowe and Staal have been huge. The Rangers don't have enough toughness, and right now the team basically has three dependable defensemen that they can count on in Girardi, McDonagh and Stralman. One one of them has a bad game like Girardi did last night, they have no shot.

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