Hockey

Temperature Reading on the Deadlocked Rangers-Canes Series

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Broadcast analysts like former Minnesota North Stars goal scorer, Brian Lawton of NHL Network talk about how scoring the first goal in a playoff game is really important but often we take it for granted. The excuses we give are ‘you got to play the whole 60 minutes’ or ‘momentum shifts a lot during a game.’ These things are not wrong but getting your foot on the gas earlier than your opponent does is valid at the same time.

After dropping the first two games of this Eastern Conference semi-final in Carolina, the New York Rangers have won their last two and tied the series by playing a direct brand of puck. They did it with offensive depth (pun intended) the Rangers received goals from a defenseman Adam Fox on a play started by his D-partner Ryan Lindgren as well as two first-line players. Another broadcaster’s cliche is that “your best players have to lead” and goals from Mika Zibanejad and Frank Vatrano mean that cliche is right as well.

While the headlines cry the Rangers scored goals, the unsung heroes deserve credit. Igor Shesterkin may not bask in the glow of the stadium lights flooding the ice like Vatrano did when the Massachusetts man drew first blood for the Blueshirts, but he does stop the Carolina Hurricanes from scoring which is more important. It is more vital because if Shesty had not stopped a wicked wrister from Hurricanes defenseman, Brett Pesce just over a minute went by in the first period, the Rangers would not have led 2-0 at the end of the first period.

At the end of the day, the Rangers won this game because they have depth when it comes to skaters that are allowed to survive and thrive because of great goaltending. Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant discussed how Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano have benefitted his team since joining it at the trade deadline.

Huge, they’ve been huge. The day we got them we were really excited the character and work ethic they bring to our team. They’re putting the puck in for us, but the character and the leadership those guys show us has been great.

Gerard Gallant during game 4 postgame show

In-game four, Copp scored a goal and an assist while Vatrano got the team started, so both had their best games of the series. Furthermore, the man who hockey writer Stan Fischler called “a good Copp on the beat” has been almost a point-per-game player in the playoffs and somewhere over the Hudson, Chris Drury is smiling.

What went Right for the Rangers

The Rangers skated well all over the ice and kept Carolina’s medium-sized artillery at bay. Then when Ranger top-pairing defenseman Jacob Trouba laid out Max Domi, Jared Lorenz received a two-and-ten minute penalty for roughing and instigating a fight. At 6:29 of the first period, the Rangers punished Carolina with Frank Vatrano’s power-play goal. This was a big turning point in the game because the Rangers cashed in on the man advantage early for the second straight game and drew first blood.

The Rangers wanted to assert their physicality on Carolina and they did it in a way that was legal and they didn’t get penalized. It all starts with being smart, being direct and not taking any penalties.

Stephen Valiquette, MSG Networks Postgame Broadcaster

Unless your name is Wayne Gretzky or Connor McDavid, goals don’t fall out of trees. If Trouba had not made a statement with his open-ice hit in the middle of a tough first period, the Rangers would not have gotten the extra roughing penalty. The Ranger power play deserves credit for scoring in two consecutive games at Madison Square Garden (Trouba’s turf) but on the road, the power play is 0-6. Meanwhile, Gallant has praised his power play but what he fails to admit is that this series has been ‘a tale of two series.’ In the first two games, five goals were scored but in the last two games, the Rangers have outscored Carolina 7-2.

NHL.com elucidates that Carolina is winless and has been outscored 21-8 on the road these playoffs. This also means that at home ‘where the storm surge reigns’ Rod Brind’Amour’s defense is hard to beat but the Rangers’ offense generated 21 shots in game two. This means that the Rangers have to get their sea legs going early in this game and generate the same energy in game five that they had in game four. This creates intrigue where the ball is in New York’s court in terms of how they set the tone as Henrik Lundqvist said in MSG Networks postgame after game four.

Game 5 Result Depends on Small Details

One clear point to take away from games one and two of this series that was in Carolina is it came down to who grinds harder. The Hurricanes played a little harder, had more intensity in their defensive zone, and won the face-off battle. So, if the Rangers are going to push through the glass ceiling that has stopped their offense earlier in the series, they need to bear down a little more. Tyler Motte joined the team late in the first round and has embodied the Rangers’ well-balanced style that has produced four wins and two losses when he’s in the lineup. Here is what he had to say about what the Rangers game is.

One area of course is to move the puck through the neutral zone and dump it quickly into the Hurricane zone. Too many times in those first two games, the Canes headed off the Rangers at every impasse and Gallant has to teach his men ways to pass around that. There are different breakouts they can use like having a center take a different route while coming around for a breakout pass but generally the Rangers have to control the puck more.

Throughout the playoffs, the Blueshirts have struggled in the face-off dot. In-game one, first-line center Zibanejad won just 35% while at home he’s been just above 50%. He’s stronger than Carolina’s top center Sebastian Aho and he needs to outdo him there. On the second line matchup, Vincent Trocheck has dominated Ryan Strome during these last two games, which makes you scratch your head a bit. However, in order to beat Carolina in game five and totally take control of the series, the Rangers need to take more shots. During the games at home, the Rangers had 28 and 21 shots. Over 30 is good and reaching that bar should be a goal of there’s, even if it comes at the expense of defensive play because a good offense is the best defense.

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Tony is a Rangers fan who has stuck with his team through thick and thin and doesn't plan on stopping, ever! Covering the latest news on New York's original six franchise is one of his favorite hobbies.