This is it Rangers fans; it’s win or go home tonight for the New York Rangers. Game five against the Pittsburgh Penguins is set for puck drop at 7:00pm ET. The Penguins lead the series three games to one.
The Rangers have not played well at all in this series. There is a complete lack of effort, execution, urgency, and most other adjectives describing anything related to motivation. Henrik Lundqvist has done nearly everything in his power to keep the Rangers alive, with little help on the offensive side of things. Lundqvist is 5-6 this post season with a 2.27 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. The only thing that might really trip up the Penguins is putting Cam Talbot in net tonight. Not because Lundqvist is not good, more like the Penguins solved his labyrinth and he’s not a challenge for them right now. Top players have not been successful this season, and worse in the playoffs. This morning, the passing of Martin St. Louis’s mother was announced. Perhaps his push for a trade was motivated by his knowledge of her health. Perhaps that situation has weighed heavier on him than anyone expected. No matter the reason, the deal was made and St. Louis is a Ranger. His attendance for tonight is unknown. Without St. Louis in the line-up, there will be changes made. Practice lines were noted as being completely mixed up. Mats Zuccarello practiced with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider while Brad Richards centered Rick Nash and Daniel Carcillo. Carl Hagelin got the Rangers’ first goal in over 146 minutes, in game four. Hagelin is tied with Richards, Zuccarello, and Benoit Pouliot for the team lead in play-off goals with three; he also leads the team with 12 penalties in minutes. Chris Kreider’s return helped add some life to the team, but not enough. Unless this team is already planning their tee times, they have nothing else to do but win tonight. It’s got to start with winning face-offs, so how about we get Brian Boyle taking more and Derek Stepan taking fewer? A power play goal is like a unicorn for this team; complete fantasy.
The Penguins are doing everything they need to do in order to be successful. They are dominating in face-offs, their goalie is in the zone, and their depth is scoring key goals. Coach Dan Bylsma told the press today that Marc-Andre Fleury would be in net, no shock there, and there would be no line-up announcements until game time. Historically, Fleury crumbles when the pressure of the play-offs sinks in on him. If the Rangers can figure out hos to keep the pressure on Fleury, they could get him rattled enough to force more games. Tomas Vokoun remains out with blood clot troubles, and Brooks Orpik is questionable after his brief appearance in game four. Jussi Jokinen has been a force for the Penguins. He scores, he wins face-offs, and he reads plays well. He also leads the Penguins with six post season goals. Evgeni Malkin leads the Penguins with 12 post season points in total. Brian Gibbons has three points in five games.