By Brian Monzo
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The Rangers have now played 82 regular season games and 18 in the playoffs. They’re 61-39, and two wins away from the Stanley Cup finals. Monday night was Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Devils — and boy was it ugly.
Right out of the gate, New Jersey dominated puck possession. The Rangers need to find a way to get their forechecking back.
This is where Ryan Callahan comes in. New York is just a pair of wins from a trip to the finals, and their captain needs to be the leader. Throughout the season and the early part of the playoffs, any time an opponent had the puck, Callahan found a way to put that person against the boards, on the ground. That hasn’t been the case in this series. It’s time for Callahan to lead the way to get the forecheck back to where it needs to be. It would give the Rangers some much-needed puck possession time.
Another big issue last night was the Rangers’ inability to create chances on the aging Martin Brodeur.
Twice in the second period, Callahan and Carl Hagelin passed up on clear looks to make the extra pass, and they didn’t get a shot off. I know how great Brodeur has been, but he isn’t what he was. He leaves massive rebounds, and can be beaten with shots that he would have stopped ten years ago. They need to get to the puck to the net, at every angle. When they’ve fired the puck, they’ve scored. That formula has to return in Game 5.
The Rangers have to win the physical battles along the boards. They haven’t done this all series.
We can sit here and get on Marian Gaborik all we want, but it’s a complete team effort, and he isn’t getting the puck in positions where he can score. He isn’t a physical player. He isn’t going to win the battle and drive to the net. He isn’t Shane Doan.
I don’t have a problem with the Rangers losing their cool and doing some stupid things late in the third period. I understand how foolish it was for Mike Rupp to take a swing at Brodeur, but all season we’ve seen little emotion during a losing effort.
Sure, they’d say all the right things in the locker room. But it was nice to see them be ticked off on the ice. I don’t think I’ve seen that all season.
When the puck drops in Game 5, the Rangers need to be the dominant team. They haven’t done it all series. It’s time for the entire squad to step up.
Final thought: if healthy, Brandon Dubinsky needs to dress. I know he has struggled, but he has fresh legs and I have to believe he is fired up and ready to go.
Follow me on Twitter: @BMonzoWFAN
Your keys to Game 5? Be heard in the comments below…