The Stanley Cup playoffs may usher in a “new” season with endless opportunities, but for the New York Rangers the story remains the same. They can’t get the puck in the net. They don’t convert on the power play and their star sniper is fading. New York needs to find a way to win without relying on Marian Gaborik to regain his scoring touch because it may not happen anytime
On Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, the Blueshirts have a chance to rattle the seemingly dominant Washington Capitals. The days of high flyin’ offense are behind the D.C. crew. They’ve locked into defense mode, which is not good for the oft offensively challenged Rangers. Goaltender Michael Neuvirth has played well but many of the Rangers shots either go wide or get blocked. The passing must improve as well if Rangers want to keep goaltender Henrik Lundqvist from having heart palpitations from the onslaught of odd man rushes with Alexander the Greats – Ovechkin and Semin – always lurking.
Brandon Dubinsky, the Rangers season leader in points and goals, needs to step up his physical and offensive game. He hasn’t been nearly as effective since losing linemate Ryan Callahan. On Friday he had just two shots on goal and two hits. The Capitals seem to have taken a page out of the Blueshirts book, placing more of an emphasis on blocking shots and wearing down the defense with big hits. The Caps had 21 blocked shots in Game Two while the Rangers had 15.
Even though New York is down two games, the series is still up for grabs. The next two home games could be the turning point. The Capitals won Game Two 2-0 after getting two snappy goals in the second period, and Game One 2-1 in overtime. Not wide margins, though at times the Rangers looked to be hanging on rather than pouring it on. It’s crunch time.
Lundqvist has kept the Rangers in it. Now they just need to finish their shots and their checks. Washington has lost their step before. If New York figures out the right buttons to push, they could come out on top. In a tight series though, one mistake makes all the difference – a stupid penalty, a half hearted attempt at clearing the zone, an untimely cross ice pass.
Matt Gilroy is looking better on defense and moving the puck well on offense. Who would have thought the Hobey Baker winner would be the first and only Ranger to score in the 2011 playoffs thus far? Sean Avery brought more to the table than Mats Zuccarello in his return to the lineup and could very well be the next Blueshirt to score a goal. Along with Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle, he kept the puck cycling down low in the third period and had some great opportunities. He only registered just over ten minutes of ice time and had one hit, but most importantly, he stayed out of the penalty box.
The Rangers may not match up on paper to the skilled Caps, but when their driving is in sync, they can claw their way to a win…yes, even without Ryan Callahan.