The stakes have just gotten a little higher for the New York Rangers.
Saturday’s ugly Game 1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the best-of-five Stanley Cup Playoffs Qualifying Round was a real wakeup call for more than one reason for the New York Rangers.
From an anemic power play to being bullied by a superior Carolina team in terms of experience and brute force, the Blueshirts were taught a plethora of lessons.
They will have to show today in Game 2 that they have learned from the mistakes made on Saturday, or risk facing a 2-0 series deceit which is near-impossible to recover from in a short series.
Ahead of faceoff in Toronto today, we decided to run through a few storylines to keep an eye on in Game 2…
Storyline 1 – Who starts in goal?
The big storyline to come out of Game One was the absence of rookie phenom Igor Shesterkin, who looked certain to get the start in goal.
However, deemed unfit to play, Shesterkin instead watched the game from the stands which at least allayed fears of a COVID-19 related reason for not playing.
Instead, veteran and Carolina Hurricanes slayer Henrik Lundqvist was the man chosen to step into the breach.
And, despite being beaten top shelf by Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin, the future Hall of Famer wasn’t at fault for the Game 1 loss unlike a lot of his teammates.
He stopped 34 of 37 shots and can’t be faulted for Carolina’s second and third goals of the afternoon.
With a bit more luck and some help from his offense, Lundqvist could easily get revenge on the Canes in Game Two.
But, the question is, should he get the opportunity to do so?
At the time of writing this, we still don’t know who will get the start in Game Two, but it will be a tough decision for Head Coach David Quinn giving what is riding on this contest for the New York Rangers.
Storyline 2 – Kravtsov or Fogarty?
Now, from a storyline point of view, Kravtsov making his NHL debut in a huge game with plenty riding on it would be fun to watch.
Plus, as we’ve seen with the likes of Cale Makar and our own Chris Kreider in past years, there is such a thing as rookies coming in and catching lighting in a bottle during the postseason.
However, per Mercogliano, whoever replaces Fast will be limited to a fourth-line role so, with that in mind, maybe Fogarty would be the most logical option to step in.
After all, the 27-year-old offers a big body and wouldn’t be afraid to stand up to the physical threat offered by Carolina, while he also has the skills to replace Fast on the penalty kill.
Storyline 3 – Time to power up the PP
We covered it here but the New York Rangers were absolutely hopeless on the power play in Game One, going a horrible 0-7.
That simply can’t happen again if the Blueshirts want to stay alive in this series and eventually extend their season.
Potent offensive weapons in the ilk of Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider will all need to be a lot sharper on the man advantage, and the responsibility falls on them to produce the goods.
In order to spark the PP into life Head Coach David Quinn could bump Kaapo Kakko up to the top unit given how impressive the rookie was on Saturday, but both units will need to improve considerably.
They just didn’t enter the zone with any confidence and that will also need to change if the Rangers are to win Game Two.
We saw during the regular season just how deadly the power play can be, and the New York Rangers will need to rediscover that magic formula and quick if they are to stay alive.