New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello
Photo by Bergen Record

The New York Rangers have an opportunity to not only take a 2-1 series lead but also prove that they can play consistent playoff hockey.

By Chris Wengert

Last year’s Eastern Conference Finals showdown between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers was anything but a predictable series.

The Rangers would look completely unbeatable one night and then shockingly underwhelming the next.

The Rangers scored at will in Games 4 and 6, and then couldn’t even penetrate the offensive zone in Games 5 and 7.

But especially Game 7, that is the one game that should have every Rangers’ fan scared to death.

With their backs against the wall, the Rangers couldn’t even give the Lightning a competitive game.

So will this series be different?

Will the Rangers follow up a strong Game 2 with another strong performance or will they take their collective feet off of the gas, something fans have witnessed much too often this season?

The New York Rangers need to impose their will upon the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

The Blueshirts were able to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s mistakes on Saturday, but tonight they need to take more initiative.

The Pens will undoubtedly clean up their play for Game 3, so the Rangers need to demonstrate that they are good enough to win games when Pittsburgh is at their best by being proactive with their play.

The Rangers’ personnel issues on defense are sure to make warm-ups for Game 3 an exciting affair.

The addition of Ryan McDonagh to the lineup would obviously be a huge plus for the Rangers, but who sits?

While both Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath were just beginning to settle into their playoff roles rather nicely, Skjei has to be the odd man out tonight, as McIlrath’s physicality is a must on the blue line.

An old friend made an appearance at practice on Monday.

While Raphael Diaz played with the Rangers during their 2014 playoff run and could bring some offense to the blue line, he hasn’t played at the NHL level at all this season.

Add a few injuries to the equation and it’s easy to see that Diaz was called up as purely a black ace.

Rangers Keys To Victory

Keep Up The Physicality

The Rangers physicality greatly contributed to their success in Game 2.

The Penguins find most of their speed and production off of the rush, but the Rangers’ physical play helped to disrupt their breakout and neutral zone play.

These playoff series are a grind, and if the Rangers can continue to be physical with the Pens and cause turnovers, they will have a big advantage in Game 3.

Serviceable Defense

The Rangers defense was noticeably better throughout Game 2. They moved the puck well in their own zone, covered the slot, and made smart tape-to-tape passes when on the rush.

The Rangers defense doesn’t need to be stellar, they just need to be serviceable.

While the addition of Ryan McDonagh would be invaluable to the lineup, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I have concerns about how effective he will really be upon his return.

Own The Neutral Zone

The Rangers’ neutral zone play in Game 2 made the Pens live miserable at times.

The Rangers not only slowed down Pittsburgh in the neutral zone, but also created turnovers that lead to goals.

If the Rangers can continue to have a presence between the blue lines, it will be a huge advantage in Game 3.

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I've been a die hard Rangers and Giants fan for as long as I can remember. I enjoy sharing opinions, and hearing from fans that love their teams just as much as I do. Henrik Lundqvist makes all of us look like mere mortals. E-mail me at: