NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
Eastern Conference - Semi Final Round
NEW YORK RANGERS
Sizing Up The Blueshirts And "Weighing" Their Options.
THE SIX AND SIX FORMULA
Rangers versus Bruins, an Original Six match-up...Nice! Aint nothin' wrong with a little old school for us old fools. ...But some older than others.
I was too young to remember when the Blueshirts and Bruins last met in the 1973 playoffs. The NHL was different when I was a kid. Teams had to play out of their own division before meeting the other division winner in the Eastern Conference Finals. I first became a Rangers fan soon after the blockbuster trade that sent principle players Brad Park to Boston in exchange for Phil Esposito, who not incidentally became my favorite player. After Espo retired, I put myself in Ron Greschner's corner. This match-up already brings back memories. This series should be epic.
I have good news Rangers Fans, I think this is a great match-up for the Blueshirts. The Rangers have the better goalie, I think they play better defense, and they are faster than Boston up front. I have but two main concerns. Will the Rangers match Boston's grittiness? Second, I fret over Boston's ability to knock the Rangers off the puck, and crash the net.
Speed and Size
The key for the Rangers will be striking a balance between maintaining speed and size on the ice. Let's call this a Six and Six Formula. The Rangers have speed with Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, Derick Brassard and Matts Zuccarello on the ice. These are the six who ideally need to score goals against the Bruins. Coach Torts did well to open up the offense a bit, but they can't open things up too much against Boston. While the Blueshirts were successful creating offense further up by the circles, their shots from the point are still relative duds - Not enough power in those shots. Therefore, they need to remain a little closer to the dots, like they've been, and find the guy in the slot.
Boston likes to grind out games too. That's where the Rangers Bigger Six come into play. Generally speaking, the Rangers need to prevent themselves from getting pushed off the puck. That won't be easy. Everywhere you look, the Bruins have size. They have six wingers who weigh over two-hundred pounds each. The new Rangers might even enjoy a good grind. So, in order to compete, the Rangers will need to maintain a physical presence on the ice and bang bodies. Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt, Brian Boyle, Ryane Clowe, Darroll Powe and Chris Kreider all need to throw their bodies around and thump with the Bruins, and when the offensive opportunities present themselves, crash the net with reckless abandon.
I would have never thought Arron Asham could be this important to the Rangers. Yet, against the Bruins, he becomes even more important. I guess timing is everything. I wish other Rangers were as decisive with the puck as Asham. Chris Kreider and all of his 226 pounds of mass needs to be on the ice. Period! In Game Seven against the Caps, he was throwing his body into every red jersey he saw. Put him on a line with Taylor Pyatt (230 lbs.) and Ryane Clowe (225 lbs.), and let those guys go bang all night. They are the Rangers three biggest players, and they have skill to boot. A tough, skilled line like that can propel the Rangers throughout the series.
If you noticed, I made no mention of Brad Richards. Why do you think that's so? The answer is the same reason why Coach Torts should not give him any ice time. He is horrible at the point, he is slow, and he's just an overall lagger. That's right. I said it - a lagger.
Boston eventually won their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs for the way they collapsed on Toronto's net. They took booming shots from the point and cleaned up rebounds. In Game Seven, they were all over Toronto's James Reimer like flies on crap.
Marc Staal's return is still questionable. Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and John Moore played outstanding hockey against the Caps. Steve Eminger had a very good series as well. They all need to keep the ice in front of Henrik Lundqvist free of Bruins. The key player will be Michael Del Zotto. First, he needs to stop the Jekyll and Hyde act. He needs to be consistent game in, and game out. The Rangers need the Del Zotto who lays big hits. We've seen him do it before. That's the Del Zotto we need now. And the Rangers need his booming shot from the point. He possesses one of the few booming point shots the Rangers have.
If you think about it, Henrik pitched regulation time shutouts in games two, six and seven. In games one, three and four, he allowed nine goals. So how many games will Henrik Lundqvist need to steal this round? The consensus says, two or three....again.