Friday, April 22, 2016

N.Y. Rangers: Penguins Push Blueshirts to Brink of Elimination


Rangers Lose Pair at Garden

Penguins lead series 3-1
I - PITT 5; NYR 2
II - NYR 4; PITT 2
IV - PITT 5; NYR 0
V - Saturday @PITT

NEW YORK RANGERS: Blueshirts have allowed Penguins 19 power play opportunities, or 4.75 per game.  That screams of a lethargic team.

The longer this series goes, the more poorly Tex's Rangers play.

It's astonishing, really...

If anything, Game Four added insult to Henrik Lundqvist's initial injury (which hastened his removal from Game One).  This time, four unanswered Penguins goals were the cause.  But only Henrik's ego may have been bruised this time.  He faced 18 shots, but made just 14 saves before getting pulled at the 6:04 mark of the 2nd period.

Back-up Antii Raanta finished the game, and allowed one goal for an overall 5-0 whitewashing at the Garden.

Penguins   5
Rangers    0

In truth, ineptness has infected them all - so, please, let's keep Henrik Lundqvist as one of the least troubling items to rage against.  It's the overall play of the interchangeable fruitless five skating in front of him that has been most disturbing to watch, and even more difficult to explain.

How many times have we've seen the same distressed offensive zone set-up attempts result in losing the zone - a turnover - a break away the other way?


It's not Henrik's fault the Rangers led the NHL regular season in least time of offensive zone possession by a considerable margin.  They have chronic difficulty establishing the zone in the first place, then usually manage just one shot on net and done.  The playoffs have been no different.

There is little excuse this season when compared to last, when many blames Mats Zuccerallo's absence from the line-up a reason for Rangers misfortunes.  Kevin Hayse was not on the ice in Game Four?  Eric Staal was.

I offer that as a petty argument.  Point taken...

Nor is it Henrik's fault the Rangers lack a forward who is comfortable, and adept at playing behind the net - a supreme passer behind net is one of the more lethal assets on ice, and key to implementing an effective dump and chase when the neutral zone bogs down.

A game after Derek Stepan expressed displeasure with team strategy over their inability to break through the neutral zone, I saw little change in Game Four.  The same propensity to handle the puck, or the ill advised stretch pass still ruled the night.

Even then, they do not have wingers with booming shots striking fear from the dots, or the bodies willing to battle in the crease - or said another way, they lack forwards capable of wearing down (punishing..) opposing defensemen.  Some on this team can, but usually refrain because it does not fit within the framework of Vineault's system.  That said, I still can't comprehend why Rick Nash is so ... nashy?  Columbus fans warned us!  Now we know why?  Otherwise, getting pushed off the puck is old news.

To the Rangers credit, they have been out-hitting the Penguins.  But their overwhelming sluggishness is killing them.  That's a shame because Pittsburgh's Matt Murray is offering rebounds like cookies, but they're being scooped up by Penguins and carried the other way.

And as far as Rangers crashing the opposing goalie, well, once again, Alain Vigneault believes in a more civilized approach.

All of this leaves Henrik very little time for spectating at the other end.  Like I said in a previous post, this is like playing under Tom Renney again.  We're in a state of regression where everything falls on Henrik Lundqvist.  Moreover, this season Alain Vigneault taxed the King, now 34-years old, unlike any season since his 2010-2011 campaign.

Like I said, point fingers at the five skaters first.  It's evident the Rangers spend entirely too much time in their defensive end.  And when you do that, you're going to commit too many penalties, particularly when your forwards do a piss poor job of getting back on defense.

We also have to recognize Marc Staal and Dan Girardi have put in many long regular and post-seasons together.  They are now performing like beaten, battered, and bruised players - see Dan Girardi.   Time has clearly caught up, and even moved the opposition a step ahead of them.   Meanwhile, Ryan McDonagh is playing with a broken hand.

At the core of my frustration is a coach telling me Kevin Klein should play Game Four instead of starting Dylan McIlrath, or that Kevin Klein warrants 27 shifts?  And I'll ask again - Brady Skjei made seven regular season starts, and gets to start over McIlrath whom made 34 regular season starts and wins the tale of the tape?

Unfortunately, to date, the story remained an old one this season ... the Rangers collectively can not clear sufficient traffic from Henrik's space, and Coach has an aversion to playing Dylan McIlrath.

Why not start both Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath?  At this juncture, Alain Vigneault really has nothing else to lose but another game, a playoff series, and his job - but not before he's made to answer why his team got eliminated in the first round.

Seems to me, then, Alain Vigneault needs Dylan McIlrath if the Rangers are to pull off a miraculous three game sweep.  Don't get me wrong, the forwards need to put their big boy pants on, and score.

As noted, the Rangers now must sweep the next three games or make earlier than expected plans for summer vacation.

I just call it like I see it.  Trolley Riders know I've been down on this team all season.  So, I'll only offer this...

I have little doubt Henrik will be on top of his game for Game Five.  So, please, give the man some help in front.  Then, just get shots on goal from any angle, converge on net, and get Matt Murray out of his element.  Then make sure you clean up the garbage.

Yeah, that requires taking a stick in the back at times, and it hurts.  But do it anyway!

  • Too Much To Ask For?  With Evgeni Malkin back in the line-up, can the Rangers keep their eyes on him, Patric Hornqvist, and Sidney Crosby?  After four games, so far the answer is no.
  • Too Much Too Ask For?  Readers might misunderstand me when I say - if Mats Zuccs continues being the Rangers best forward, they are in big trouble.  That's to his credit, considering Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Kevin Hayse, etc., are the ones whom should be making headlines.  Can Rick Nash lead the Rangers through a series ... just once?
  • Too Much To Ask For?  How about a power play goal, huh?  The Rangers are now just 1 for 16 in four games.  The Penguins have 7 goals in 19 opportunities.  That's a problem Keith Yandle was brought in to address, remember?

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