It’s pretty amazing how the NHL Playoffs can have fans smiling ear to ear one night, only to be scratching their head the next. This roller coaster becomes known as the “Quest for the Cup.” Recently, this form has been spot on for the New York Rangers. One game, they look great and ready to slowly take over a series while the next, they look like the playoff team that squeaked in on a cold streak. After 7 back-and-forth games with Philadelphia, Derek Brassard scored in game 1 of overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins to start off the series. The Rangers looked fresh and ready to take on the Penguins. However, games 2 and 3 have been duds and the Rangers have not scored a goal in 120 minutes. Tonight’s game 4 is pretty much a must win going back to Pittsburgh for game 5. Here is how the Rangers do it:
Powerplay opportunities lead to goals when teams have both good player and puck movement. When players are standing still on a powerplay and moving the puck around before shooting stationary, it is very easy for the defense to stay in their system and make easy plays. That is exactly what the Rangers have been doing lately on their powerplay, leading to a 7.1% conversion rate in the playoffs. Currently on an 0-for-34 run, the Rangers have to get it going in order to get back in this series while still in New York. The Penguins have given the Rangers more than enough opportunities for a powerplay spark….the Rangers are yet to use it.
Be in Fleury’s grill
Marc-Andre Fleury has been steady so far in the series against the Rangers, with his last 2 games being shutouts. Henrik Lundqvist has been excellent in this series in comparison. The Rangers and Penguins have nearly identical shot totals with 84 and 86 respectively. The only difference between the teams so far is the Penguins are crashing the net and getting at Lundqvist. Less than a minute into game 2, Chris Kunitz took a goalie interference call running into Lundqvist. On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of loose pucks off of Fleury that have not been attacked by a Rangers player. They have not been in or around the crease, giving Fleury a hard time. The Rangers must get into Fleury’s head tonight and get him off his game.
Contributions from ALL lines
This postseason, the only steady contributions have came from the Rangers 3rd line of Benoit Pouliot-Derrick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello. That type of help from that line could go a long way, but that is only if the 1st and 2nd lines do their job. Rick Nash has been a ghost this entire postseason and can’t be. It would be nice to see Marty St. Louis and Derek Stepan help Nash turn it around. Carl Hagelin has been very silent as of late and needs to use his speed to help the team. Chris Kreider is now back in a practice uniform and could return any game now. If the Rangers can get some consistent scoring tonight across all their lines, this series will turn back around all even headed to Pittsburgh.