Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Henrik Lundqvist's Sore Shoulder Means Forward Lines Need To Step It Up


2012 - 2013
Round Two - Semi Finals
Boston Leads Series 2-0
I - BOS 3; NYR 2*
II - BOS 5; NYR 2
Boston Bruins

NEW YORK RANGERS - The Better The Forward Lines Play, The Less Action Henrik Will See.

I found myself disagreeing with Coach regarding many things this season.  My son never got over his treatment of Sean Avery.  Frankly, neither did I.  We could really use a player like Avery right about now.  I digress.  Nor did I appreciate Tortorella's recent dress-down of Carl Hagelin.  I know coaches only say things about their players when they want them to hear it.  What Torts had in mind, I don't know.  Coach's characterization of Hagelin's struggles on the PP were rather two face considering his season long protection of Brad Richards.  That's the guy who's PP performance and overall play deserves a tongue lashing.

But when it comes to questioning or critiquing Henrik Lundqvist into a microphone or to a reporter, I'm behind Coach Torts one hundred percent.  I'm not going there either.  After eight seasons of brilliant goaltending, Henrik Lundqvist has earned at least that.  I'll tell you how to react to Game Two - silently.  Because any audible rant as it pertains to a goalie who stopped 92% of all regular season shots taken against him in his career is irresponsible.

Next year Henrik Lundqvist will most surely win his 300th NHL game, but yes, he is still looking to hoist his first Stanley Cup.  If he had to do that yesterday, his shoulder might have been too sore for lifting. If you've ever bruised your shoulder, you know its nature is to feel worse before getting better.  The best report out of Rangers camp since Game Two regarding Henrik's shoulder was that it was stable.  How vaguely unreassuring.  Henrik added today, it was under control.  That means pain management to you and me.

There is no getting around Lundqvist had a bad Game Two, and that the Rangers did many things right.  The Rangers benefited from Boston's sixteen give-aways, and wound up with more SOG, including numerous quality chances.  Credit Tuukka Rask.  The Rangers also won more face-offs.  It is still wholly unfair to demand perfection from Henrik however, when he is surrounded with such overall offensive ineptitude, on the power play in particular.  Fewer and fewer of us civilians have  confidence in this offensive system anymore and the lack of goals it creates.  In the name of Patrick Lester, they can't even enter the offensive zone with a man advantage, much less score.  Two power play goals in the playoffs?  They were 0 for 5 in Game Two.  Save me Henrik's overtime record.  Goalies like Marc Andre Fleury, who got the stuffing beat out of his pads by the Islanders, can't hold Henrik's stick, yet Pitt's offense gets him through round after round, and year after year.  Goals cover up many many mistakes and poor play.  We're lucky Henrik is cool cat, because he goes off somewhere after nights like Game Two, and performs his ancient Swedish pagan meditation ritual, then returns to the ice good as new.  But this is not a case of - here we go again.  Henrik put it best in saying this is a different round against a better team.  So if there is a directive for the Rangers forwards to follow heading into Game Three, it would be to show up in defense of their goalie, play in Boston's zone, stay low and go right at their defensemen, punish Tuukka Rask, score goals, and protect this house!

It was nice that Rick Nash finally decided to score.  Perhaps he can inspire Brad Richards now.  But if you're like me, you stopped relying on the names on the back of their jerseys last round.  This is my position on Rick Nash - once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend.  Show me.  In the mean time, Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, and Ryan Callahan have been the primary scorers, and they'll need to continue doing so.  Their mission - Make Tuukka Rask lose this game.

The blue liners are not without blame.  Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto need to play better than they did in Game Two.  All of them need to do a better job of keeping the slot closed to traffic, and keeping Henrik's lanes clear.  They should be alert to all Bruins skaters and all four lines because every Boston player minus one, had at least one shot on goal in Game Two.  Four different Bruins topped out at three each.  Conversely, the Rangers had five players with four shots on goal and three players with no shots.  That tells me the Rangers are pressing with limited line-ups, while the Bruins are sharing the puck and throwing fresh lines on the ice.


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