New York Rangers: Game, Set, Match -- Ottawa Senators up Next
Apr 22, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) celebrates with Rangers left wing Pavel Buchnevich (89) after defeating the Montreal Canadiens in game six of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers flipped a switch after Game 3, and finally answered questions about their ability to perform during playoff hockey.

Let me be the first to say, I hate being wrong. However, I woke up this morning the happiest I’ve ever been to be wrong in my life.

The New York Rangers had many questions marks headed into the series with the Montreal Canadiens. Henrik Lundqvist was inconsistent all regular season, and more times than I can remember, he was yanked from games. The scoring they often generated was off the rush, something that changes when teams tighten up and play better defense. In the beginning of the series, players that were relied so heavily on in the regular season performed a disappearing act (Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, etc). The defense has been criticized all year for poor defensive zone play and inability to break the puck out. After game six, though, consider all the above questions, answered. Emphatically.

Now, I know some of you have it out for coach Alain Vigneault. He tailor-makes a style that’s not necessarily playoff style and like we all saw, it hurt us in Games 1-3. However, give the man some credit. This team adjusted, and yes, the players play and put all the work in, but this flip of the switch doesn’t happen without some push from the coaching staff.

Also, if anyone remembers the old Tortorella days, do you remember how many times he would change his lines? I mean, every day at practice, it was a new combination. Torts had a history of not letting his players play out of funks. To his credit, Vigneault does that and does that very well in my opinion. To keep Hayes, Miller, and Zucc together after some less than stellar offensive efforts in early games, paid massive dividends in Game six as Zuccarello found the net 5-on-5, and the line was finally buzzing. Same goes for Buchenevich, who has looked fantastic lately, (another time I’m happy to be wrong).

The biggest thing for me is that Buch looks so confident. AV knows he’s a highly skilled player and by playing him on a skill line helps out with confidence tremendously. Torts used to bury skill players on the fourth line then yo-yo them between the press box and the ice. AV seems to have the right pieces at forward for the time being and is putting those pieces in the correct spots.

You can see the chemistry building as well as the confidence of Hayes and Miller growing in this goal. What passing.

Let us not forget, we scored a Power Play goal! What a time to break an 0-for-series drought. Zibanejed makes a phenomenal touch pass through the seam and Zucc does an excellent job corralling the hard pass and getting it on net.

So what’s next?

The Rangers move on and will face the Ottawa Senators. We now know it’s the Senators after they defeated the Boston Bruins by a final of 3-2 in game six on Sunday afternoon.

The Senators are back in the playoffs after missing last year finishing second in the Atlantic Division with 98 points. Guy Boucher is the head coach and famously runs a conservative neutral zone style called the 1-3-1, that will really try to stifle opposition coming through the neutral zone. When I think of the Sens, the name Erik Karlsson comes to mind. The guy is a heck of a player with offensive skills better than some forwards. This adds an incredible element to their lineup. He’s rock-solid in his own end and can spring players for breakaways with his top-notch passing skills. Up front, the Sens have players like Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan, and of course Derick Brassard. Lots of firepower up front which makes this Sens team, a dangerous one.




Neal Purcell has a tremendous passion for New York Rangers hockey and the sport of hockey in general. A graduate of SUNY Cortland in Upstate NY, Purcell coaches both a high school hockey team and a travel team in the winter. Purcell is also a part of a small family business in the Central New York Region.