Monday, May 6, 2013

Rangers Set For Critical Game 3; Clowe, Staal Possibilities For Tonight?

Make no mistake about it. Game 3 of tonight's Eastern Quarterfinals matchup against the Washington Capitals is Game 7 for the Rangers - as is every game for the remainder of this series. After losing the first two games of the series in Washington, the Rangers find themselves in a must-win situation and need to win tonight in order to keep their hopes for this season alive. A loss would put them in an insurmountable 3-0 hole. If the Rangers want their season to extend beyond this week, it is vital that they win both of these two games at Madison Square Garden.

Ryane Clowe, who missed the first two games of this series due to what is believed to be a concussion, seems likely to be reinserted into the lineup tonight. Clowe didn't confirm anything to the beat reporters this morning, only saying he's "not sure" if he'll play tonight, but Arron Asham stayed on the ice with the other healthy scratches during this morning's optional practice after Clowe left the ice. That probably wouldn't be the case if Asham was going to play tonight. Marc Staal (eye) also took part in practice this morning, but did not speak to reporters, so his status is unclear. Needless to say, it would be a huge boost to get Clowe and Staal back for tonight, but we'll have to wait and see. If Staal does play, Steve Eminger would likely be scratched to make room for him.

Of course, it doesn't matter who plays tonight if the Rangers can't put the puck in the back of the net. The Rangers are 0-for-7 on the power play in this series and have scored one goal in six periods, including zero in the last five. It no longer matters if the Rangers come out tonight fired up and throwing hard hits - they need to score goals, and score them early. Braden Holtby has not been challenged at all in this series and through the first two games of this series it's been a case of the Rangers making another average goaltender look better than he really is. They need to throw anything and everything at the net and hope they can get bounces to go their way. Passing the puck around a hundred times on the power play isn't going to get it done.

Some of my other thoughts before tonight's game:

- Henrik Lundqvist suffered a stinger when he made a save in yesterday's practice, but he's believed to be fine. There's no way he would sit out tonight's game, obviously. For the Rangers to win, they need a repeat of Henrik Lundqvist's Game 2 performance and not a repeat of Game 1. Unless the Rangers shock everybody and have an offensive explosion tonight where they breakout with a ton of goals, this will likely be another close game in which King Henrik will need to be at his very best in order to keep the Rangers in it.
- I wouldn't be surprised to see Derek Dorsett get some increased ice time tonight, and perhaps even start the game off. I thought he played with a lot of edge to his game and was real physical in his Rangers debut in Game 2. The Rangers could use a spark plug like him to help set the tone early in this game. I also wouldn't be opposed to seeing him get some time on the power play. I don't see how it could hurt to park him in front of the net to screen Holtby.

- If the Rangers are going to win tonight, they will need a big performance out of Rick Nash, who is still looking for his first career victory in the playoffs. Nash hasn't been terrible in these first two games, but he simply needs to score. Getting eight shots on goal is all good and well, but the Rangers need him to start scoring. This team will not survive this series if Nash can't start finding the back of the net.

- As hot of a month as Derek Stepan had in April, he has been ice cold in the first two games of this series. Much like Rick Nash, the Rangers need Stepan to be the elite player he proved to be in April when he was named the third star of the month. The Rangers need their goal-scorers tonight, so this is the time when Stepan needs to prove that he can be relied on as a key part of this team's offense when they need him the most.

- Speaking of offensive players stepping up, I can't help but think that if tonight's game is close that this might be a game where Brad Richards breaks out. We all remember his heroics in the playoffs last year, specifically against the Caps, and he has a knack for this kind of thing. I wouldn't be surprised to see Richards come up with a big goal or a big play tonight for the Rangers.

- I think the Rangers have desperately missed Marc Staal in this series. They've basically had two defensemen in Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh who John Tortorella feels comfortable relying on to shutdown the Capitals, and that simply isn't enough with the offensive firepower that they have. Outside of McDonagh and Girardi, who both haven't exactly had stellar series' so far, the Rangers have been forced to role with four defensemen who ideally would be fifth and sixth defensemen if the Rangers had it their way. Anton Stralman and John Moore haven't been terrible in this series, but they have been asked to play over their heads. Getting Staal back would be a huge boost to help shutdown the Capitals' offense.


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