By Brian Monzo
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The Rangers head into Washington Wednesday night tied 1-1 in the second round of the playoffs against the Capitals. But does it feel like the Blueshirts are in any kind of series danger of losing this series?
I don’t want to get ahead of myself — or anyone else here — but based on what I’ve seen, as long as the Rangers can find a way to consistently score (the $50,000 question), there seems to be no way they could lose this series to the Capitals.
Game 3 is tonight and the Rangers, despite losing Game 2, seem to have these contests in their control. In fact, it was their own mistakes that cost them the last one. They came close to winning, despite themselves.
Now they need to go on the road and get it done.
We’ll start with Brad Richards. In real life, no one is worth the actual money these guys are getting paid, but Richards is earning his millions thus far in these playoffs. He looks like a player possessed and will not allow his team to lose. He has been finding gaps and space on the ice and creating great opportunities for the Rangers both at even strength and on the power play.
His linemates need to wake up. Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin certainly have been playing with max effort. But there comes a point where players need to produce. Neither of them have produced points recently in games. That’s going to be a huge key, and focal point moving forward.
There’s not much to say about the Rangers’ second line. Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider seem to be creating chances game in and game out. Kreider, again, was noticeable throughout the game. I would like him to look to get to the net a little more. He has only played a handful of NHL games, and all the little things he needs to get better at, he will.
All their role players are playing well.
Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust continue to be solid. Brian Boyle, back from injury, was OK, not great. I expect better things tonight. Even the fourth line of Artem Anisimov, Mike Rupp and John Mitchell created chances. Anisimov seems to play better when he is playing with big bodies. Ranger fans can recall two seasons ago when he played well on a line with Jody Shelley of all players.
Henrik Lundqvist made a rare mistake, giving the puck away in Game 2 and it cost the team. Lundqvist plays his best when there is pressure on him. I think he knows he needs to rebound.
The key to playing the Capitals hasn’t changed since the beginning of the series. They need to continue to get shots on and contain Alex Ovechkin.
It’s weird. Ovechkin’s role seems to have diminished since Dale Hunter has taken over as coach of the Capitals, but he is still dangerous, and his game-winning goal against the Rangers in Game 2 was a reminder of that. Between Dan Girardi and Lundqvist, Ovechkin should have a hard time finding chances — and the back of the net.
The Blueshirts can’t get away from the concept of forechecking and controlling the puck. This series has been much more open then the series against the Senators. The Rangers have been controlling the puck throughout the games. They also need to get bodies in front of the net. If they follow this formula, and I don’t see why they won’t, I expect them to win these games in Washington.
Will it be easy? No — but the playoffs are not easy. There will be speed bumps. But this team seems poised and ready to roll. Just like Alpha will be down the stretch come Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Follow me on Twitter: @BMonzoWFAN
What’s your prediction for Game 3? Are you as confident as Monzo? Sound off in the comments below!