After a back and forth series with the Washington Capitals and an emphatic Game 7 win in the nation’s capital, the Rangers had plenty of reasons to enter the second round with confidence.
Although Rick Nash did not score a goal in the first round, he still had plenty of scoring chances which gave fans hope. After dropping Game 1 in Boston 3-2 at the hands of Brad Marchand‘s overtime goal, the Blueshirts knew they had to tie up the series heading back to New York. Unfortunately, that is not the way things panned out. New York dropped Game 2 as well losing by a final score of 5-2. Do not let that score fool you however, Rick Nash did score his first playoff goal, and up until the third period, I felt that the Rangers were playing their best playoff hockey so far. But, a third period collapse filled with defensive miscues and blown coverages would be their eventual downfall.
So, the Rangers headed back to New York trailing 2-0 in the series, the same spot that they found themselves in against Washington. After watching last night’s debacle, it is clear that this team needs a makeover. Brad Richards once again looked invisible which is starting to become a daily occurance, Nash did not score, the powerplay was awful, and it looked like Henrik Lundqvist was the only player trying to get a win for his team.
I know this team cares and they are trying to win, but they aren’t going to be successful with John Tortorella at the helm of this squad. His grind it out and mega defensive system does not work when you have star players like Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, and Ryan Callahan. Although I agree that it is the players job to put the puck in the net, it can all be traced back to the system.
The way Tortorella runs things just doesn’t work anymore on Broadway. The question that is being asked now is “Has Tortorella lost his team?” It has happened before in hockey, where players no longer respond to their coaches, and now the fear is the same thing may be happening in the Big Apple. It looks like Tortorella’s tyrannical way of running things is forcing the players to tune him out.
Before last night’s game, the Rangers went 99 consecutive games without a defeat carrying a lead into the third period. You would have expected his team to come out with fire and swagger, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we saw the play taken to the RANGERS. If you want to hold a lead in this league, you have to bring a consistent and structured forecheck. Many times last night the Bruins were able to just waltz right out of their zone, with absolutely no pressure being applied. That just doesn’t work in this league, and it stems back to coaching.
After a fluke bounce was put in by Daniel Paille, the Blueshirts trailed 2-1 with 3 minutes to play. So Tortorella called his team over to discuss some things, which was the right decision. Once the puck dropped and the Rangers controlled play in the offensive zone, there was not one guy in front of the net. If I was coaching, I would have told all three of my forwards to crash the net and look for rebounds and tip-ins. Instead, the Rangers kept play to the outside, and barely mustered a shot on goal. This is frustrating as a fan, and maybe it’s time to close the curtain on Tortorella’s Broadway show.
Back in February, Larry Brooks of the NY Post reported that the Rangers could use their amnesty buyout to get out of Richards’ contract. Many fans thought that was absurd, a slow start to the season means that we talk about buying out players? Well, that buyout may become a necessity. Although he had a pretty good run at the end of the season with 11 points in 6 games and a hat trick against Buffalo, many people were describing that effort as “empty points.” Remove the points run at the end of the season, and Richards’ numbers in the regular season are horrifying to look at: 23 points in 40 games for a 0.58 points per game average. Even if you were to count in those 11 points, Richards finished with the lowest points per game average of his career, dating back to the 2000-01 season.
At 33 years of age, the former Conn Smythe winner has only one goal in 10 playoff games so far. Steve Eminger is outscoring him, along with Dan Girardi. His faceoffs are at a measly 47.9 percent, which is worse than last year’s playoffs. The Rangers struggles on the powerplay can’t be put into words: 2 for 38, with a 5.3 percent conversion rate. Although most of the time you can’t pin powerplay struggles on one player, Brad Richards hasn’t recorded a point on the powerplay in this postseason despite playing 3:47 per night second only to Rick Nash.
It seems as if Richards has drastically gotten slower and slower as this season has rolled on. Could he be tired? Maybe. Could he be nursing an injury? Possible. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that he has been holding the Rangers up. Brad used to be an elite player, now he seems like a washed up veteran who’s time has come to pass. The organization should seriously be thinking about using that amnesty buyout on Richards because he is not getting the job done.
As the old saying goes, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.” Well, she is certainly preparing as the Blueshirts will walk into Madison Square Garden tomorrow trailing Boston 3-0. Only 3 teams in the entire history of the NHL have come down from 3-0 holes to win the series; the Maple Leafs, Islanders, and the Flyers. In fact, Philadelphia came back to win that series against the Boston Bruins and sometimes, history does repeat itself. Do the Rangers have what it takes to join the legendary list? May the odds be ever in your favor.
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