The best thing we can say about the ugly game we just witnessed is that it's over. Going back to New York down 2-0 in the series is not shocking or even completely unacceptable. What is shocking and unacceptable is how the Rangers, a few select players notwithstanding, completely failed to show up in an absolutely crucial game. The Bruins are a very good team, but the Rangers are right there with them. But for whatever reason they weren't today. The Bruins were superior in virtually every facet today. Their forechecking was better. Their defensemen were better than ours in all three zones. Their forwards were making more noise in the slot than ours were. Hell, though Lundqvist is far from the cause of this losing effort, there's a pretty good case to be made that Rask was the better goaltender tonight.
The good news is, as we learned against Washington, if you take care of business at home then you only need one win on the road. But being down 2-0 against the Capitals feels very different from this 2-0 deficit. The Capitals were an exploitable team and the Rangers seemed like a team that just needed a couple of adjustments and a few favorable bounces to turn the tide. This series is not a lost cause, but it's going to require a major shift in attitude to make anything of it. Let's review today's game.
Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh, and Rick Nash: Here are the three guys who can go to sleep tonight knowing they did enough. Callahan stepped up like a captain is supposed to, causing a turnover in the defensive zone, battling to gain possession in the neutral zone, and then taking it for a breakaway that he put in to kill the Bruins' momentum they had just generated from the first goal of the game. After that goal, he was all over the place.He finished the night with a goal, three shots, and eight hits. Nash had another great game, abusing Zdeno Chara and drawing a penalty from a Rich Peverley high stick. He finally put one in the net – his first playoff goal as a Ranger – after beating Chara and battling past the swarm of Bruins who have been on him both games. McDonagh also had his second consecutive excellent game, with spot-on defensive play as well as four shots of his own. These are the three guys who can be proud of their effort today. Everyone else needs to step up.
Brad Richards: It's one thing to not live up to the paycheck. And, oh boy, has he not lived up to the paycheck this season. In nine playoff games so far he has a total of one point. A far cry from the team-leading 15 points he had last year in the playoffs.
But that simply isn't enough misery. A year removed from being one of the top point-getting centers in the NHL, he has been relegated to fourth-line duties for the playoffs and is playing against the Bruins' fourth-line, who burned him today. At the risk of over-simplicating defensive zone tactics, the center is often responsible for the man in the slot. And in this instance, Greg Campbell was, indeed, Richards' man. He left him in order to drift to nowhere in particular, and the result was Campbell putting the puck in the net with ease. It's bad enough that he isn't producing offensively. But what is completely unacceptable is that an NHL veteran with 900 regular season games to his name, a Stanley Cup, and a Conn Smythe is making bantam-level mistakes in a playoff game. AT THE VERY LEAST he should be dependable defensively, but right now Tortorella can't even trust him to do that much.
Dan Girardi: I like Dan Girardi. A lot. But, if it wasn't evident before then it should be now; he is heavily exposed if he is not paired with McDonagh or Staal. As physical as he is and as great at blocking shots as he is, he just can not be relied on to anchor a defensive pairing. While McDonagh has played like his normal self with Anton Stralman, Girardi has struggled away from McDonagh. He managed to be on the ice for all five Bruins goals today, and while not all were his fault, the one that buried the Rangers early in the third period most certainly was, as he was caught puck-watching while Marchand took the opportunity to get open above the crease for an easy tap-in. If Marc Staal is not coming back then the Rangers need Girardi to play smarter; he certainly can't play any harder.
Bruins Defensemen: Of the eight goals the Bruins have scored so far half have come from a Bruins defenseman. To some extent you have to give them credit; they are a talented group. That being said, the Rangers have done a miserable job of adjusting. On all of those goals the Boston point-men had all the time and space in the world to corral the puck, skate forwards, and prepare a shot. Coincidentally, the times the Rangers HAVE pressured the points turnovers resulted; Callahan and Nash scored their goals off of turnovers from the point. The less time and space you give them the fewer pucks that end up in your net. And the more opportunities you will have on the counter-attack. The silver lining is that this is a best-of-seven series and so the Rangers still have time to rectify their errors. This is one that has to be rectified immediately for Game Three and onwards.
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