The road to the
Stanley Cup is paved with 16 wins, but also the potential for a lot of losses.
It is unrealistic to think the New York Rangers would sweep the rival
Philadelphia Flyers, let alone rattle off 16 wins without so much as a single
loss. So as Head Coach Alain Vigneault preaches, your lows can’t be too low and
your highs can’t be too high, especially in the NHL playoffs.
The Rangers will need this mentality
when they enter hostile Philadelphia territory for Games 3 and 4 beginning
tonight at 8 pm. With the momentum shifted in the Flyers’ favor, New York will
need a strong two-way effort with the kind of fore-check that saw them dominate
the defensive Philadelphia system in Game 1.
After going ahead 2-0 early in Game
2, the Rangers sat back and allowed the Flyers to come at them rather than
putting their metaphorical skates on the Philadelphia jugulars. Now the
Blueshirts’ task will be regaining the momentum from early in the series.
Three Keys to tonight’s matchup:
· Make Ray Emery “bob and weave”: The self-proclaimed boxing fan will be
between the pipes again for the Flyers in Game 3. His weakness is clear:
side-to-side movement. The Rangers took advantage of it in Game 1 and early in
Game 2, but the Flyers smartly defended against it and kept the Rangers to the
outside for the second and third periods en route to the series-tying victory.
How can New York break through the center ice and slot coverages? They need a
quick and aggressive fore-check. Players like Carl Hagelin and Benoit Pouliot
need to get in to the offensive zone strong on the boards and hope to draw
defending players toward them while their linemates crash the net. Despite the
Rangers number of shots in Game 2, there were few second efforts and rebound
opportunities. Create traffic in net and make the Flyers scramble.
· Stay out of the Box: Special teams have shown themselves to
be critical thus far in the series. The Rangers have pleasantly surprised on (some of) the power play opportunities
and will need to continue to succeed there against a formidable Flyers penalty
kill. The “embellishment” nonsense won’t help their cause, but it’s not likely
that plays a factor in Game 3 as it did in Game 2. Conversely, Philadelphia has
been able to generate scoring opportunities and momentum with the man
advantage. The Rangers cannot get caught taking unnecessary penalties and
spending time on the PK.
· MVP Performances: New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh has
shown a bit of rust after missing the final handful of regular season games
with a shoulder injury. Is he 100%? It doesn’t seem like it, especially the way
Flyers’ forward Jakub Voracek walked around him in Game 2. Defensive partner
Dan Girardi needs to provide better support until McDonagh gets his legs under
him. Another Blueshirt MVP who needs to step up is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Were any of the three Flyers’ goals his fault? Not really. But at the same
time, Lundqvist has not come up with the “unreal” save that we’ve come to expect.
Had he been a bit more aggressive on the Voracek semi-breakaway, he could have
stopped it and perhaps held onto the win. “The King” needs to steal one.
take Game 3 in a tight game, 3-1.