The New York Rangers defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 on Thursday night, tying up the series 2-2. Our full thoughts and analysis can be found here.
-The New York Rangers started the game with Tanner Glass on the top line with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. Following the opening shift, Glass returned to the fourth line and Jimmy Vesey went back to his usual top line spot.
In reality the practice meant little to nothing, but it did provide a glimpse into Alain Vigneault’s mind. Vigneault truly believes Glass’ physical presence in the lineup made a major impact in Game Three. He wouldn’t have started Glass in Game Four otherwise.
The word physical is italicized because Glass has been successful, but not because of his style of play. Glass has been successful because he’s playing the Rangers’ style of play, which is outworking teams and using depth and skill to succeed. Glass uses his personal skill (a big body that works hard) to complement more talented players.
We’ll get into Glass’ performance later on, but Vigneault can’t fly too close to the sun with Glass. Putting him out there to start the game was silly, and did nothing for either team.
-After some sloppy play (putting it kindly) the Rangers scored the first goal of the game. Michael Grabner and Kevin Hayes each came close, but it was Nick Holden who found an opening past Craig Anderson first. Good for Holden, but even better for the Rangers considering the source of the goal.
Kevin Hayes set up the goal with a beautiful pass. Hayes is such a talented player, yet has not been himself for the majority of this post-season. Giving up on him for a few tough games is ridiculous, as he showed last night.
-While we complain about Tanner Glass here plenty, he now has four assists in six playoff games. It was Glass’ shot block that led to a two on zero breakaway for Michael Grabner and Oscar Lindberg early in the second period. Grabner, often criticized for making poor decisions on breakaways, slipped a perfect pass to Lindberg.
Lindberg made no mistake about it and scored in his second consecutive playoff game. When push comes to shove, the Rangers need the fourth line to be on like that. However the case, they simply need the line to be on. If that means Tanner Glass playing well, sure. The “who” doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that they’re on their game.
Their forward depth is their primary advantage over opponents, so the ability to trust the fourth line to produce like that is key.
-Oh, and Oscar Lindberg also scored the third goal of the game. The player screening in front? Tanner Glass. J.T. Miller also earned an assist on Lindberg’s second goal and man-handled Erik Karlsson earlier in the game.
We said before Kevin Hayes looked better than usual last night. Miller did too. If those two are rolling in addition to everyone else….look out, Ottawa.
-There’s no doubt here that the Rangers are a better team than the Senators. Ottawa has led for 4:11 of this series. 4:11! New York couldn’t hold a lead early in the series, but now they learned their lesson. While it’s always a shame to see the Rangers fall in a playoff series, this would be an especially awful series loss.
New York has had their way with the Senators. They’ve looked superior for the majority of the series, boast better goaltending, a significantly better group of forwards, and only slightly worse defense. It’s tough to say a team should win a series when they were down 2-0, but it feels that way.
-The Rangers’ power-play is a problem. Sure they scored in the third period, but the Senators were already down and out at that point. Eventually it will come back to haunt them if they don’t fix it. First of all, Derek Stepan needs to be off of the power-play. He lacks the quick thinking abilities to contribute, and plays enough minutes elsewhere where he’ll get his time on ice.
Next, New York has far too many weapons for the power-play to be this major of a problem. Something has to give. Adjustments must be made. A team cannot have as many options as the Rangers do and succeed on the power-play as few times as the Rangers have. It’s unacceptable.
-When we don’t even need to speak about Henrik Lundqvist, something went well. That’s two games in a row Lundqvist could have slept in the net and still won the games. It’s about time the Rangers reward him for stealing games earlier in the post-season.
Hopefully he steps up next time New York needs him to, as the past couple of games he’s essentially gotten the nights off.
-With the amount of maintenance days Rick Nash has been taking, there’s some reason to question if he’s playing 100% healthy.
However, he has also been a monster throughout the entire series. The “Nash can’t perform in the playoffs” narrative can go. He’s dominating, perhaps not even while at 100% health. It’s a treat to watch.
-On the other side, Erik Karlsson has been missing in action since Game One. New York continues to frustrate him and use the body on him, taking him out of the game. When Tanner Glass owns more points than Karlsson, there’s no room for complaining. Karlsson sat out the third period of Game Four, so that will be something to look out for as well.
-New York’s performance on Ottawa’s top players has been impressive all series. Consider this: only five Senators scored this series. Only one Senator scored since 1:29 into the third period of Game Two. 10 Rangers scored this series, including seven since the 1:29 mark of Game Two.
-Incredibly moronic fight by Brendan Smith at the end of Game Four. The Rangers gain nothing from his fighting, and he put himself in danger of getting injured. Not a huge believer in momentum from fighting carrying over into the next game and whatnot, but it could only hurt. There’s times to be a Super Tough Guy, and that was not one of them.
-The thought here before Game Four was that whoever won would win the series. The opinion has not changed. Even if the Rangers surrender Game Five, the belief here is that New York will take the series. As previously mentioned, it would be a massive disappointment if they don’t.
That’s a wonderful line of thinking to be able to have.