Make no mistake about it, stealing one in Pittsburgh should absolutely be considered a victory for the Rangers. Anytime you can wrestle away home ice advantage you’ve done something right.
But even the most ardent Rangers apologist would admit after last night’s abomination that they’re concerned about the fatigue five games in eight days generates. And it obviously isn’t going to get any easier with Game 3 set to faceoff at 7:30 tonight, less than 24-hours after Game 2 ended.
While it’s convenient to blame Gary Bettman and his Ranger hating schedule makers, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if the Blueshirts would have just dispatched the Flyers in five or six games.
Unfortunately, they didn’t. So here we are. A day after the Rangers could only muster 22 shots on a goaltender who makes Chuck Knoblauch look like the poster boy for mental stability.
A day after the power play looked as disinterested as Olivia Munn at the notion of getting back together with Brad Richards.
A day after Derek Dorsett reminded us that somehow Dan Carcillo is a more disciplined player.
A day after Rick Nash solidified that his inspired performance in Columbus a month ago was a mirage.
And a day after the Rangers wasted a vintage Henrik Lundqvist performance which was good enough to send thm back to MSG up 2-0.
To address the lethargy, Alain Vigneault either needs to fill the water bottles with Red Bull or add some fresh bodies to the line-up.
Assuming the latter is the more likely option, especially since the water bottles are more than 16 oz which would make the former illegal in New York City.
After the game last night, AV was pretty adamant that his team was not suffering from mental or physical exertion (via New York Post)…
“Did my goaltender look tired? He was on top of his game, he wasn’t tired. I don’t think anybody else should be tired. He’s played every minute of the playoffs [Lundqvist was pulled in the third period of Game 6 of the first-round], so if he’s not tired, nobody else should be.”
I don’t buy it. That team looked spent last night and the head coach knows it.
So what moves need to be made?
While it would be nice to re-insert Chris Kreider into the line-up starting…hmmmm, let me think…right eff’n now! He’s lucky if he could play NHL14 on Xbox let alone a real, live NHL playoff game.
TheNYRBlog’s Adam Herman nailed it yesterday when he said Raphael Diaz’ offensive potential needs to be injected into the line-up. Is it a risk to shake-up a defense that’s kept the Penguins offense from exploding this series? Sure. But the power play is officially losing them games, so downgrading a bit on defense is absolutely worth the upgrade in the offensive end.
Now the question is, who sits? I’m pretty confident that the top four have nothing to worry about, so don’t even go there. That obviously leaves John Moore and Kevin Klein. I know AV likes the righty/lefty pairings on the blueline, but Moore and Diaz are both offensive players and we all remember how the former Blue Jacket’s game suffered when lined up alongside Michael Del Zotto. Plus Diaz looked pretty confident while paired with Klein when Ryan McDonagh went down. The duo offer a nice mix which has proven to work well together.
Meanwhile, my preference would be to sit half the forwards after the last night’s performance, but unless Vigneault is willing to insert the entire practice squad into the line-up it’s not a realistic option.
So, AV really only has JT Miller and Jesper Fast at his disposal and I wouldn’t mind seeing him utilize one or even both tonight if for no other reason than to get rested players into a tired line-up.
Not to mention both offer qualities that were sorely missing last night including speed and a willingness to go to the cage.
I think the easy move would be to sit Dorsett, who hasn’t provided enough of a spark on the fourth line and is now taking bad penalties, move Carcillo to the fourth line and insert either Miller or Fast on the third line. If AV is looking to insert both, then Carcillo is likely to be eating hot dogs alongside Dorsett at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Will the team likely receive a jolt of energy from the MSG Faithful tonight? Absolutely. But when the adrenaline that peaks during John Amirante’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner begins to subside in the middle of the first period, will they have enough in the tank to compete against a superior Penguins team? I’m not so sure, which is why it’s imperative to have at least a few hungry and energetic players in the line-up tonight.