The New York Rangers begin a three game in four day stretch that could very well be a preview of a future playoffs series. Buckle up Rangers’ fans.
New York Rangers (37-20-6, 80 points, 2nd in NHL Metropolitan Division)
Pittsburgh Penguins (32-22-8, 72 points, 4th in NHL Metropolitan Division)
Tonight, 7:00 PM on NHLN-US, MSG
CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA
By Chris Wengert
The New York Rangers begin what could be three of their most important regular season games of the year tonight.
Who better to make a statement against than the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, and New York Islanders?
For a moment, just imagine the message it would send to the NHL if the Rangers could steal all three of these games?
That message could be that this team is not to be taken lightly.
Derek Brassard expressed his belief in the New York Rangers when he made this statement to Pat Leonard of the Daily News:
“We’re already playing with all the best teams right now. So if everyone that follows hockey doesn’t want to put us to win the Stanley Cup, that’s fine like that. We’ll go into the playoffs as underdogs and we’ll make our way all the way there.”
I love the Messier-like confidence from Brassard, who basically upped the anti for the New York Rangers. Much like the 1994 team, Derick Brassard is showing fans his teammates alike that it is OK to talk about goals.
Why not put everything on the table and go all-in?
While making these statements are great for team confidence, they don’t erase the fact that the Rangers will face three of their biggest rivals in four days.
First up is Pittsburgh, who have been riding a hot Marc-Andre Fleury. Here are his stats for the past 10 games:
Those are some impressive numbers for sure, but there are a few reasons why fans call Henrik Lundqvist “The King.” Here are Hank’s numbers from his past 10 games.
Not too shabby.
It will be interesting to see how Eric Staal performs in the next few games, as he did look a little shell-shocked at times against Columbus.
It will obviously take Staal some time to learn the Rangers’ systems and strategies, but he will need to raise his battle level if he is going to be the player that the Rangers hoped they were acquiring.
Rangers’ Keys To Victory
Protect The Final Five Minutes
The Rangers have had a knack for making games interesting in the closing minutes.
If you’re a football fan, the Rangers play can be compared to the 2015 New York Giants: If a handful of games were two minutes shorter, the Rangers would have better numbers in the win column.
By using their physicality and clearing the puck, the Rangers will improve their chances of finishing games. Simply put, if they Rangers can clear their opponents from the slot and successfully shoot the puck out of the zone when they have the opportunity, they’ll take some unnecessary stress off of their fans.
How many times have we witnessed a Ranger player make a weak attempt to clear the puck in the closing seconds, which almost always ends up on an opposing defenseman’s stick?
Dan Girardi Needs To Be Dan Girardi
This may be a pipe dream, but Girardi needs to be the Sidney Crosby killer that he has been in the past.
For some reason, Girardi knows exactly how to frustrate and take opportunities away from the elite player. The last time the Rangers faced Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby wasn’t able to fire even one shot on goal.
That’s spectacular, and needs to continue.
Establish The Forecheck
The Rangers are able to establish their forecheck when they send two players to the puck, which puts pressure on the opposing defense.
If the Rangers can take the Pittsburgh fans out of the game by creating some success in the offensive zone early, it would go a long way towards a win.