The Rangers are slumping badly. There’s no way around that. After a 6-0 pounding of the Capitals they’ve since lost three straight, all in regulation. The cushion they had built themselves in the 7th seed has evaporated. But the Rangers have to move on. The past can not be changed. There is plenty of reason to be optimistic about tonight’s game. Despite the three losses, all three games were games the Rangers could have, if not should have won. The Rangers have shown that they have both the ability and tactical knowledge to play well; they just haven’t been able to convey those over a full 60 minutes. Perhaps playing the rebuilding Ottawa Senators will give them an easy victory tonight to help build their confidence. Then again, the Rangers seem to always have trouble in Ottawa. The Rangers have a 10-5-0 record on the second game of back-to-backs this season, so that’s reason for optimism. Let’s look at the game notes:
Henrik Lundqvist- When the Rangers called up Chad Johnson in place of Cameron Talbot, the belief was that Johnson would get the start tonight against Ottawa. However, Tortorella has decided to give Henrik his 11th straight start. I’ll guess that he wants to put a stop to this losing streak as quickly as possible, and Lundqvist being in net clearly gives them the best chance of that. Lundqvist hasn’t stolen many games for the Rangers recently, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t given them a chance to win in all of them. He’s not going to put up a shutout every night. The Rangers need to help him out a bit. How’s this for counter intuitive; Lundqvist is a pitiful 9-11 against the Senators in his career, but despite that puts up his best individual numbers against them with a 2.03 GAA and .931 save percentage. Rangers have had trouble scoring against Ottawa despite their questionable goaltending the past few years.
Steve Eminger- The good news regarding Mcdonagh is that his injury is only day-to-day, after it initially appeared just from watching it that it could have been something very serious. However, he was spotted limping today and will be sitting out. Eminger will be inserted back in and will be paired with Sauer, who was Eminger’s counterpart during his best stretch of the season. Eminger’s last game was against Washington. He scored the first goal in that game. For this game, though, they just need him to be solid defensively and to make simple plays.
Brandon Dubinsky- Time to call Dubinsky out again. There’s no questioning his dedication and work ethic, but he’s played with no confidence in recent games. In the post game interview last night, he appeared rattled and stressed out. He knows there’s a lot of pressure on him to succeed, and it was clearly getting to him. Dubinsky was probably the Rangers’ best forward the first half of the season. He clearly has the talent. He needs to simplify his game and use his physical abilities more than his head. It’s when he over thinks the play or tries to be too perfect that he gets off his game. Lets see if he can comes back a different player tonight.
Craig Anderson- Ottawa’s had putrid goaltender for the most part the past few years. Anderson wasn’t very great himself in Colorado this season before being sent to the Senators in return for Brian Elliott, and Anderson has regained form since then, with a 4-2 record with a 1.16 goals against average and a .966 save percentage. No matter how depleted the Senators are right now, especially after the deadline, the Rangers like to let the other team’s goaltender stand in the way of a victory, and Anderson has the potential to do just that on any given night.
Make sure to check out Senshot’s pre-game article for tonight’s matchup. His number one concern seems to be the presence of Sean Avery. He must have watched last night. With Jarkko Ruutu on the Ducks now it will be interesting to see if the Sens interact with Avery. If so, I’d expect Chris Neil to be the man to do so.
60 minutes. Please. A full game effort. That’s all I ask for. No taking any periods off. And get the powerplay moving.