By Brian Monzo
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I was afraid to tune into Joe and Evan on WFAN this morning after the tweets I was getting last night. Yes, I understand that the Rangers blew a first-period two-goal lead, and that the Senators have tied the series at two. But with the vibe I am getting from Rangers fans, you would think they were losing the serious 3-0, have been shut out all series and John Tortorella surely needs his job status re-evaluated. STOP!
This is the playoffs. Games are going to be harder. I understand the frustration of losing, but by no means were the Rangers going to steamroll over the Senators. They weren’t going to sweep them and win 7-0, easily moving forward to the next round. This is a tough league to win in. Ask the Penguins, Canucks and Devils. All favored teams, currently down in their respective series.
It’s been the same story for the Rangers this series as it has been all season. They need to outwork the opponent and find a way to win. This entire series the goaltending and defense has been fine, but they need to find a few ways to bury the puck. What has been encouraging is that it seems they are creating good chances, but Craig Anderson has made a number of great saves.
I like the way Brad Richards is playing. It seem he knows he is in the playoffs and is playing every shift as if they need to score. Brian Boyle has played the best hockey he has played in his entire career. Ryan Callahan has two goals in the series and finally we are seeing Marc Staal play like the Marc Staal we’ve come to expect.
The three players that need to step up right now are Derek Stepan, Marian Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky. Gaborik has been contained. He is the their best scorer, and the Senators have paid extra attention to him. The Rangers need to find ways to get something from Stepan and Dubinsky. Stepan worries me the most because this is his second career playoff series and he has been invisible in both of them. He had 51 points in the regular season and will need to contribute in not only this series, but any series after this one for the Rangers to reach full potential.
Dubinsky has been the most frustrating. I imagined that after his bogus ejection from Game 2 he would come out on a mission in Game 3 and Game 4 and clear bodies, score goals and be a force. Minus a handful of missed opportunities, I would have thought he was a healthy scratch. I know players get snakebitten with not being able to score goals, but the downfall of Dubinsky this season after scoring 20 and 24 goals in his previous two seasons is really a mystery. And after struggling in the regular season, he could have made people forget about it with a good start in the playoffs. His ejection from Game 2 — while his effort was admirable in standing up for a teammate — has been the highlight for him through four games.
As far as Chris Kreider goes, I personally would like to see him a little more in the first two periods of games. I understand in crunch time the coach does not want to rely on a player who has played two NHL games, but clearly there is speed and talent there, and I don’t see why he can’t get 3 to 4 more shifts per period.
What’s now guaranteed now is that Carl Hagelin will appear in Game 6. Hagelin’s ridiculous three-game suspension comes to an end following Game 5.
Game 5 is Saturday night, and the series is a best-of-three now. This team all season has reacted to adversity the way a championship team does. They handle business, and I don’t see any way that the Rangers allow the Senators to win another game this series.
The Rangers have not backed away from how they’ve played all season, and that was a winning formula.
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Do you agree with Monzo? Will the Rangers win the next two games and close out the series? Sound off in the comments section below…