So after what can only be described as a horribly
disappointing start to the playoff series, the Rangers were energized by their
home crowd and looked like a very different team than they did in Washington.
In the two games they played at the Verizon Center, the Rangers managed just 1
goal. In games three and four, the Rangers combined for eight goals. I can’t
figure out this team for the life of me, but right now, I don’t care. I’m just
happy to be going back to Washington with the series all tied up! But the
Rangers need to take this momentum with them to Friday’s game, as they are the
ones who hold it all right now.
Tonight the Rangers did a lot of things right. They limited
Alex Ovechkin to 1 shot up until the last five minutes of the game. They stayed
out of the penalty box (which is huge against the Capital’s lethal power play).
They created turnovers in the Washington zone. And miraculously, though they
did fail on a five on three, they did score a power play goal (hey, we can’t
ask for too much in expecting more than one of these a game). Henrik Lundqvist
was stellar as usual, and came up big when the team needed him in the third
period. And (gasp), Brad Richards scored
a goal!! Now if only Rick Nash would score…
The line of Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin was
reunited and there were immediate results. The trio connected for a beautiful
play and Stepan scored the game-winning goal. This was the strongest line
during the regular season and needs to be kept together in the playoffs to
maintain the consistency of having an offensive threat. And Derick
Brassard…wow. He has five assists in the past two games, and has been a bright
spot on the power play. Many people, myself included, were skeptical of the
Gaborik trade, but he’s been contributing a lot to the team’s offense,
especially during the last two games.
The biggest thing the Rangers need to do is stop turning the
puck over in their own zone. Their failure to be able to clear the puck is a
major liability, as it generally ends up in about two minutes of a Capitals
shooting gallery, and has been the reason for more than one of the Caps’ goals
this series. The Capitals have two incredibly dangerous players in Niklas
Backstrom and Ovechkin, not to mention Mike Green on the blue line, with Troy
Brower chipping in as well. Ranger fans hold their breath with extended bouts
in the defensive zone, while the Rangers scramble to stop the shot barrage. They
have trouble maintaining possession long enough to change lines, or even simply
get the puck out of danger without taking an icing.
As a lifelong Rangers fan, I’m used to being on the edge of
my seat and this team sending my emotions out of whack night in and night out,
experiencing both elation and anger throughout the season. But this team does
it within each game. From period to period, minute to minute, you never know
what you’re going to get. When the Rangers play like they did through the
majority of game four, they are a very good team. They forecheck, they shut
down other team’s top players, and they create scoring chances for themselves.
They just need to eliminate the lapses. One thing is definitely for sure though
– we now have ourselves a series.
*Photo credit goes to