The New York Rangers round one matchup has become Henrik Lundqvist taking on the Montreal Canadiens. This is not how a hockey team can win a Stanley Cup.
After three games in the New York Rangers versus Montreal Canadiens first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series, one thing is abundantly clear: Henrik Lundqvist is the New York Rangers. On Sunday night, the New York Lundqvists’ took a tough loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the forever quiet Madison Square Garden.
The switch has been completely flipped since the third period of game two on Friday Night. The Rangers haven’t been able to sustain any offensive zone pressure, making the Montreal Canadiens look like the Martin Brodeur era New Jersey Devils. Last night, the New York Rangers did not show up until they were down 3-0 with five minutes left and Hank was pulled.
Not only were they thoroughly outplayed, they embarrassed themselves.
Absent Offensive Zone Pressure
The New York Rangers has been brutally absent in the offensive zone since they went into a defensive shell with the lead during the third period of game two in Montreal.
Coming back to the house of horrors, Madison Square Garden, has only exacerbated that awfulness. Countless times during last night’s game, the Blueshirts were forced to dump the puck into the zone straight onto excellent puck handling goaltender Carey Price. A simple flick of the stick allowed Price to easily clear the zone of any New York threat.
Even better, how many times did a Rangers forward get to the blue line, stick handle and lose the puck or draw a player offsides? Too many. If Montreal wants to clog the blueline, make the soft dump into the corner away from Carey Price and go battle for the puck.
This team has zero battle right now. The New York Rangers suffered through 21 turnovers last night … twenty-one. I’ll just let that brew there for a bit.
Not often with the Rangers can you say they aren’t battling, grinding down in the dirty areas of the ice. This roster looks demoralized and fatigue already. The big name forwards haven’t shown up. Is Kevin Hayes alive? He looks the 20-pounds heavier Hayes of yesteryear.
Watch the effort from him on the Alexander Radulov goal last night. Could he have gotten walked any worse?
Does Mika Zibanejad know this is playoff hockey? J.T. Miller knows he can’t touch that puck that leads to a Montreal goal on the power play, putting the nail in the coffin. The rest of this series is going to be completely on the offense. Twenty-one shots with no traffic in front of Carey Price isn’t going to do it. You cant win if you cant score.
The New York Rangers have always struggled on the power-play. That is no surprise. The Blueshirts are now 0-10 on the power-play in the series. They have to find a way to bury these opportunities.
It starts with traffic in front of Carey Price. Get a big body like Chris Kreider or Rick Nash in front of the net to take away his eyes. At this point in the series, the power-play could use a facelift. Replace lazy players like Zibanejad and Hayes with higher energy players like Oscar Lindberg and Jester Fast. Hell, at this point, throw Tanner Glass in front of Price and let him cause some havoc. The PP can’t get any worse so why not switch it up AV?
The penalty-kill let the team down once again last night. Montreal was able to score two out of three on the man advantage. The penalty killers need to become more aggressive and challenge the opposing players. The defenseman on the Montreal power-play can really shoot the puck. New York can’t allow them time and space to create rebound opportunities or home run passes.
The MSG Crowd
Everyone talks about how Madison Square Garden is “special” and has so much “history.”
You know what they don’t talk about? How quiet the crowd is.
How the lower bowl is filled with businessmen in suits who could give a shit about the team, win or lose. Watch a Washington Capitals game at home … it is a sea of red. Watch a game in Pittsburgh … everyone wearing the whiteout shirts.
Madison Square Garden displays a myriad of pinstripe suits, button ups with some mixed in New York Rangers jerseys. What a joke. If you watch a playoff game in any other venue around the league the noise if deafening.
The Garden was loud for about two and a half minutes and then went silent. You could hear a pin-drop on the ice last night. Also with five minutes left in the game why are three-quarters of the lower bowl seats empty? Madison Square Garden is not intimidating to visiting players and that’s a shame.
Staying the Course
Not everything the New York Rangers have done thus far in the playoffs has been bad. Here is a list of things that need to continue for the remainder of the series.
Any Henrik Lundqvist haters who have questioned his play during the regular season have now been proved wrong. The man is still an elite goalie in the league who can battle with the best of them. Henrik is sporting a 2.16 GAA and .941 save percentage. His play has been incredible and the only reason we have a fighting chance against the Canadiens. The majority of his saves have been from top scoring areas of the ice. Grade A chances from the Montreal Canadiens have been stoned by Henrik.
The bottom line is that Henrik will not be able to win this series by himself. Not against a world class goalie like Carey Price. You have to feel for Hank. All the guy does is give his blood, sweat, and tears to this team. All the players do is let him down year after year. At some point, you have to wonder why he wants to stay in New York.
Check out this deflated Henrik Lundqvist who essentially says his team has to be better in front of him:
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 17, 2017
Tanner Glass and NYR Physicality
The New York Rangers have been a more physical team in the playoffs. That physicality stems from Tanner Glass. Many Rangers fans were a bit uneasy about the decision to start the tough winger in the playoffs.
At this point, Tanner Glass has brought the most physicality and energy to this Blueshirts team. He is noticeable every shift and has been a force on the boards. Scoring the game winning goal in game one was a nice added bonus, but Tanner needs to continue his physical play and bring energy to the game.
Kevin Klein was also noticeable in his first game back. He was physical and in good defensive positioning (despite a few miscues):
The New York Rangers will face the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. There is no doubt that the Blueshirts need to find their game in an essentially “must win” situation. They need to improve in all elements listed above while maintaining the physicality and the current play of Henrik Lundqvist. Optimism is hard to find, especially when the team looked so deflated and fatigued. Alain Vigneault also seemed deflated in the post-game presser.
Hear from coach Alain Vigneault after tonight's Game 3 loss to the Canadiens at The Garden. pic.twitter.com/3zzZlV2aoP
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 17, 2017
The mood is somber around Rangers Nation. A win on Tuesday night can help build up morale and get this team going again.