New York Rangers Game Three thoughts: Hey look, everyone woke up

Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Rangers defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 in Game Three of the second round. Here’s our full thoughts and analysis on the game and moving forward.

-The Rangers came out flying. New York looked like a team who knew they were down 2-0 in the series, while the Ottawa Senators looked like a team who knew they were up 2-0 in the series. Everything was going on net in the early going, with Craig Anderson forced to make some nice saves.

Mats Zuccarello’s game opening goal was the culmination of a nearly flawless first five minutes of play for the Rangers. That was important to see after the disastrous ending to Game Two.

-Michael Grabner continues to hustle for the loose pucks and use his quick thinking to his advantage. His goal to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead was mostly thanks to a mistake by Craig Anderson, but if he wasn’t ready at all times he wouldn’t have capitalized on the help by the Senators’ goalie.

People like to harp on Grabner’s missed breakaway opportunities, but he’s been a huge help across the ice for the Rangers. What a signing by Jeff Gorton.

-The Rangers absolutely dominated the Senators in the first period. Ottawa was lucky to have the puck for more than 20 seconds in the Rangers’ zone, while New York piled up the scoring chances. There’s two ways to look at this.

First, it was encouraging to see for the Rangers. Second, it’s frustrating to see. How frustrating? It shows yet again that New York owns another gear, one that makes them incredibly difficult to play against. Yet for some reason whether or not the Rangers reach that gear is anyone’s guess every night.

There’s no reason New York shouldn’t be able to play their best hockey for the majority of the post-season. However, they simply do not. Consistency is key and must be found.

Perhaps this had something to do with the quick start:

-Rick Nash also capitalized on an Ottawa Senators error. One of the major differences between the Rangers last night and the rest of their post-season was their ability to capitalize on the opponents’ errors.

Ottawa created a two on one chance for New York, and Nash snapped it past Craig Anderson. Going up 3-0 after blowing so many two goal leads in the post-season had to have helped.

-J.T. Miller set up New York’s fourth goal beautifully. Miller won a battle and found a wide open Oscar Lindberg, who scored his first career playoff goal on Craig Anderson. Miller’s game looked much improved, as did Kevin Hayes’.

As New York fired on all cylinders, some of their struggling players appeared to be themselves again. Moving forward getting the most out of all of the forwards will be key. The forward depth remains the Rangers’ strongest asset and top advantage over their opponents.

-Tanner Glass got an assist on the Lindberg goal and played a fine game overall. However, the truth remains the same. New York must beat Ottawa through a skill and speed game. Pavel Buchnevich provides that, Tanner Glass does not. Buchnevich should be back in the lineup on Thursday night, but he won’t be.

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Moving Forward

So, Alain Vigneault played Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith far more minutes than Nick Holden and Marc Staal. He also heavily sheltered Holden and Staal. The result was an outstanding performance by the Rangers as a whole, and a dominant beginning led by help from the defense.

The question is, does Alain Vigneault know what he did? Did he finally recognize the deficincies of Holden and Staal, or did he luck into one good night? The answer to that question will determine a lot for the Rangers moving forward. The deployment cannot revert to how it was before Game Three. This must be the new norm.

-No reason the Rangers cannot win this series. When they’re on, the Senators don’t even look like they can play in the same league as them. New York simply must figure out how to be consistently on. Perhaps the new defensive deployment will fix that problem. Regardless, the Rangers are more talented than the Senators. It’s simply about playing to potential.

-Derick Brassard has been invisible all series, while Mika Zibanejad has played his best games as a Ranger. There were some worries about Playoff Derick Brassard haunting New York, but thus far that hasn’t even been close to a problem. Instead, it’s been Zibanejad haunting the Senators.

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-Game Four will be huge for the Rangers. Going back to Ottawa tied 2-2 will put New York behind the driver’s seat. Down 3-1 would put them on the brink of elimination. New York owns home ice for Game Four and all of the momentum. For once, New York must help themselves. It’s time for a big Game Four effort.