Blueshirt fans all know the New York Rangers have had trouble winning on a consistent basis on home ice this season. On many occasions during the regular season, they have lost points against teams they should have beaten at Madison Square Garden. That hasn’t changed much thus far in the playoffs. They lost a critical game two at home against the Flyers. A game in which they had a 2-0 lead. They did just enough at home to win the first round series against Philadelphia.
Now in this second round series against the Penguins, the Rangers dropped two consecutive home games. For a possession team like the one Alain Vigneault built on Broadway, the Rangers were dominated in shots on goal in the three straight games they lost. In fact, there was a negative 45 shot differential in games two, three, and four. The Rangers looked like they were packing it in and making tee times at their favorite golf courses.
After the loss in game four, the Rangers came out and ran like a pack of rabid wolves against the Penguins in Pittsburgh; winning that game rather easily 5-1. If you would have said the Rangers would go on the road and dominate after the lazy game they played in game four; I’d tell you that you were crazy. Martin St. Louis lost his mother on Thursday and still played Friday night. It seems the Rangers have new life now. They have a veteran leader they all like and respect to rally around and it showed as they managed to squeak out of Manhattan for game six with a home victory. In the last two wins, the shot differential for the Rangers is minus five. Usually the Rangers are the team to out shoot their opponents but minus five isn’t all that bad after the way things were going. The Rangers’ shot differential in games won is minus 14. That may not sound great but those numbers are tainted a bit by games five and six where the Rangers sat back too much with leads in the third period of those two games.
The Rangers have been road warriors all season long. They won 25 games away from New York City this season and so far in these playoffs they’re 3-3 on the road (4-3 at home). The Rangers winning of late, has a lot to do with the return of Chris Kreider into the lineup. He isn’t going to Pittsburgh and winning the game for the Rangers himself though! Rick Nash is going to have to bring his “A” game Tuesday. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are, without a doubt, going to come out and play desperate. They weren’t desperate the last two games. Now they face elimination, the same as the Rangers. Rick Nash has had a good series thus far by skating with the puck to the net. If you believe in the law of averages, as I do, then Rick Nash is due for a serious hot streak. Nash’s career shooting percentage is about 9%. With 51 Shots on goal that would mean he’s overdue for about five goals. That kind of hot streak could carry a team in the playoffs and I, personally, think he has a huge game seven for this team. They are, after all, on the road!
This is going to be an emotional game for both teams. The winner will likely be the one that is stable between the ears. The Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has done his best to take the possession game from Alain Vineault and the Rangers. The final will come down to the Penguins goaltending and defense. If Rick Nash and the Rangers can get to Marc-Andre Fleury, they will have the Penguins playing scared and timid. It takes their game plan and renders it useless. Get shots to the net and crowd his crease and this will be another feather in the cap for the “Road Warriors” Lets go Rick Nash and the New York Rangers!