I was watching Eurotrip a few nights ago, and I believe that it’s an unofficial rule of life that there is no such thing as a bad time to quote Eurotrip. So, here’s a fun fact: The New York Rangers are 11-0-1 in the final three home games of the regular season since 2006-2007. Think about that. Now think about it again. Seriously, that’s 24 possible points, and the Rangers have gotten 23 of them. That is why, despite their mediocre play at home this year, I am as optimistic about the remaining three games as this damn roller-coaster of a team will allow me to be. Look back at the previous seasons, and you’ll see that all 12 of those games were either must-wins or close to it in order for the team to get into the playoffs, or in a few cases, improve their seeding. The lineups were radically different every year. Whether the win was needed to secure a playoff spot or to prevent elimination changed. Hell, even the coaches were different half the time. But something about home games at the end of the season has worked in the Rangers’ favor. I don’t know if it’s the crowd. I don’t know if it’s just Henrik being Henrik. I don’t know if it’s the higher sales tax. Whatever it is that makes the Rangers wake up for these games, they better utilize it again for these final three games, including the one tonight against the Bruins. The Rangers won the previous matchup against Boston not too long ago by a score of 1-0, with Stepan getting the goal and Lundqvist showing Tim Thomas why he should be in the Vezina discussion. Boston is 6-2-2 in their last 10. This is far and away the most difficult matchup of the remaining three, so the Rangers will have to bring their best game tonight. Let’s look at the notes:
Same Lineup- As I mentioned, Kris Newbury was called up, but Tortorella claims it was just precautionary. According to him, the Rangers will “probably use the same lineup” as they did yesterday against the Flyers. No complaints here. All four lines were putting in a solid effort ,generated some form offense, and were responsible defensively.
Henrik Lundqvist- Through all of those wins at home late in the season that I highlighted in the opening paragraph, many things have changed year-to-year for the Rangers. The one constant has been the presence of Henrik Lundqvist. Tortorella told the media today that Henrik’s recent play has been “the best I’ve seen him play.” Tortorella has only been with the team since late in the 2008-2009 season, but I can agree that he is not only about his play since Tortorella got here, but in Lundqvist’s whole career. Tortorella also stated that Lundqvist has to “carry the team.” He’ll most certainly have to do that tonight, just like he did last time against Boston. Henrik is 2-1 with a 1.68 GAA and .940 Save Percentage. I’d say that’s pretty good, especially against the second best offense in the East. Safe to say, Henrik is Boston’s kryptonite.
Tim Thomas- He’ll be in the other goal. The Bruins have only used Thomas once in the three matchups against the Rangers this year, and that one game was a good one, making 34 saves on 36 shots. The probably Vezina does have a tendency to completely fall apart once in a while, but I wouldn’t expect that to happen tonight. Simply put, Thomas will likely be hard to score on. The Rangers are going to have to take advantage of the few open shots they are given.
Brad Marchand- CLEARLY there are players the Rangers will be more concerned with, but Marchand is on a hot streak right now, scoring 2 goals and adding 4 assists in his last six games. Marchand has quietly put up 20 goals in his first full NHL season. Don’t sleep on him.
Zdeno Chara- The Rangers blocked 7 of Chara’s shot last game. Blocking 7 of one player’s shots alone is remarkable. When they are 7 Chara Bombs, well, then that’s basically a suicide mission. You know that if any team is willing to take throw themselves in front of his shots, though, it’s the Rangers. Chara’s 14 goals on the year are scary. The Rangers will have to put in a similar effort today and prevent his shots from getting through.
Marc Savard is still obviously out for the Bruins with the concussion. Shawn Thornton is also probably not playing after getting hit near his eye with a skate and needing 40 stitches to patch it up. Gilroy is the healthy scratch on defense once again. The Rangers’ magic number for clinching the playoffs is 5. A win would also make the Leafs unable to surpass them.
Finally, let’s watch our “puke who is afraid to fight” AKA Sean Avery beat Gregory Campbell, who is two inches taller, in a fight during the previous matchup between these teams.