The New York Rangers are experiencing their own version of Groundhog Day, as they have forced a game five of the Stanley Cup Final back to Los Angeles from their Wednesday night win. They find themselves down three games to one to the Kings, who are looking to win their second championship in three years. After aggressive play and some “puck luck,” the Rangers and Kings are right back where it all started. Despite losing the first two games of the series, the boys in blue should have confidence in their opponent’s building to rely upon: two-goal leads, overtime hockey, and their aggressive play from game four. However, they still need to play with everything on the line and not assume things will work out like they did in games one and two. If the Rangers want to see game six in New York, here are some keys for tonight:
The Rangers need to take advantage of the Kings’ giveaways. For the first two games of the series, the Kings had not been a good puck possession team. The team gave away more pucks to the Rangers, totaling 51 times. The Rangers need to not let these freebies get away. They can transition quickly from defense to offense. They have enough speed in their forwards to push the puck up ice. However, they are best serve in dumping the puck into the offensive zone, and make the Kings’ defense have to chase after the puck. Then, the Rangers can force panic and employ their forecheck. If they can get this going and cycle down low, they will control the hockey game and dictate the pace of play.
Power play opportunities must be capitalized by the Rangers. They are 0 for 15 with the man-advantage. In game three, the Kings practically dared the Rangers to beat them on the power play, by giving them six opportunities. The result was a “big, fat doughnut.” Hopefully, head coach Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Scott Arniel are addressing this issue and trying to find a fix. One of the main things is to put more shots on Jonathan Quick and create rebounds. If they have a look, take it. There has been too much “hot potato” passing going around and electing to dish the puck, rather than fire on net.
Dan Girardi needs to play better. He is a -3 in goal differential. Too many times, he has been getting beat by the Kings forwards. Especially for Girardi, he has been guilty of inopportune times. From game one’s double overtime giveaway that lead to Justin William’s overtime goal or in game four where he was beat by Dustin Brown after a giveaway on the blue line, his play needs to improve. It is too bad too because Girardi has been a warrior for the Rangers. Through this post season, he leads the team in hits (76) and blocked shots (64).
With game time looming on the horizon, we will see if the Rangers have made the proper adjustments. For now, all we can do is wait and see. Tonight will be another test of the Rangers’ will, when facing adversity. Time to man up and face the music.