The goal of every road team in a playoff series is to win one of the first two games. By doing that, home ice advantage shifts and they don’t go home down two games to none. The New York Rangers came 143 seconds from doing exactly that.
Tonight, they get a second chance, but they let an excellent opportunity slip through their fingers. There is good news. The game served to give notice to the Hurricanes that they are facing a formidable opponent and that they will have a tough series. The other good news is this is a best-of-seven game series and things don’t get desperate for either team until they lose a game at home.
There are a few things we would like the Rangers to do, based on lessons learned from Game One.
Turk, call a time-out!
The third period was a tire fire for the Rangers They were overwhelmed from the opening faceoff The Hurricanes spent most of the first ten minutes in the Rangers’ zone. In fact, after the first minute of the period, over the next 10 minutes there were only four play stoppages and all four faceoffs were in the the Rangers’ zone.
The Rangers were able to clear their zone, but the Hurricanes repeatedly turned the puck around and applied pressure. With the ice tilted, the Rangers could get absolutely no offense going and the Hurricanes had the next 14 shot attempts.
At some point in the onslaught, Gerard Gallant should have called a timeout. A play stoppage at any point in that period could have settled the team down and they could have gotten their forecheck going again, given his beleaguered players some rest and perhaps most important, quieted the hometown crowd. The bottom line is the Hurricanes relentless attack had the Blueshirts on their heels and it is not enough to say that “they weathered the storm.”
Look at the Oilers-Flames game that night. Calgary score two quick goals in the first 51 seconds of the game. Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft called a timeout in the first minute of the game to stop the pressure. Sure, the Flames scored three of the next four goals, but the stoppage put an end to the immediate pressure.
Gallant has been reluctant to call timeouts all season and he needs to be aware that it’s a waste to end a game with his timeout in his pocket. Sure, he got credit for saving his timeouts in other games, but in this case, it would have been invaluable.
Take the bloody shot!
Ian Cole had scored one goal in 103 prior playoff games. He scored his second in overtime by simply turning and shooting the puck at the net. Igor Shesterkin was tracking the shot, until it glanced off Ryan Lindgren’s stick and into the net.
This is a Rangers’ disease that they simply must get over. The players must realize that in the playoffs there is no tomorrow. They must remember that Artemi Panarin and K’Andre Miller scored in the Pittsburgh series on deflections off Penguins’ skates.
We all love those brilliant passing plays when they work. When they don’t, chalk it up to lost opportunities. Adam Fox, when you get the puck at the blue line, take the shot. Artemi Panarin, when you get the puck in the offensive zone, take the shot. Mika Zibanejad, when you get the puck in the offensive zone, take the shot. And the rest of the forwards should crash the net and look for rebounds.
Take the bloody shot!
Learn from the Kids Line
The Kids Line was the most effective line in Game One. How did they do it? With a relentless forecheck. By hitting everyone in sight. By going to the net. Ironically, that line played the way that all of the Hurricanes’ lines played in the third period.
The Strome line has been a disappointment most of the playoffs, their lack of production camouflaged by Panarin’s OT game winner that came on the power play. Ryan Strome is rapidly playing his way out of New York by scoring only once on 29 shots, a pathetic 3.4% rate. That’s far below his linemates with Panarin at 12.5% and Andrew Copp at 22.2%.
Strome took a careless penalty in Game One to negate a Rangers power play and his lack of production is affecting Panarin. They need to improve.
As for the Zibanejad line, they were totally shut down by Jordan Staal’s line, holding them to only six shots on goal in about 20 minutes of ice time. Is there any surprise that Rod Brind’Amour would use Jesper Fast to check the red hot Mika Zibanejad and that it would work so well?
If the Strome line is ineffective the team needs Zibanejad, Kreider and Vatrano to excel. They need to step up. Just like the Kids Line has.
Take advantage of Raanta
Look, we all like Antti Raanta from his days in New York. He’s had a tough time overcoming numerous injuries in his career and it’s great to see him having success in Carolina. But not in this series.
For the second straight series, the Rangers are facing a backup goalie instead of two first string netminders who were All-Stars. They got away with beating third string goalie Louis Domingue and an unready Tristan Jarry in Round One.
However, in that first round and in Game One of the second round, they did not test them. Building on our advice from above, the Rangers need to test Raanta by taking a lot of shots, crowding the net and not giving him good looks.
Raanta’s biggest save of the game was on Filip Chytil and there is no denying he got over to make the save,but if Chytil had elevated the puck just a couple of inches he woud have scored. Alexis Lafrenière had Raanta beat, but hit the post and Raanta left a gaping net open for Kaapo Kakko who shot it wide.
The Rangers have a mission. Beat the backup.
One more unrelated rant
The NHL announced the finalists for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. They are Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse and New Jersey’s P.K. Subban.
The award is given “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community,”
There is no doubt that Subban has done a lot of the community. His Foundation has provided millions of dollars for worthwhile causes and he is co-chair of the NHL’s Player Inclusion Committee. For all of that he is worthy of the selection.
But if the award also includes leadership qualities on the ice, the king of the slewfoot is undeserving. He has repeatedly caused injuries to other players by using what he claims is a skating style, but his peers call a dirty play.
Just this season he was fined $20k and narrowly avoided suspension after his slewfoots to Reaves, Milan Lucic, Trevor Zegras and Blais. Ask any of them if that shows “leadership on the ice.”
The three finalists and winner was chosen by a committee of senior NHL executives led by Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. If Subban gets it, it would be an embarrassment for the NHL and its leadership.
All three finalists have baggage. Getzlaf was fined and apologized for making a homophobic slur in 2017. Nurse was suspended for a blatant headbutt in the first round against the Kings, missing one of the most important games of the season.
But neither have been repeatedly guilty of attempting to injure opposing players.