About the time the puck dropped on Game Six of the Rangers-Tampa series that everyone interested and involved had heard the stats: 14-3. The Rangers were 14-3 in their last 17 elimination games. It’s an amazing stat when you think about it, talk a team that’s incredibly tough to close out, this is it.
But these are the Rangers, the team that one game looks like it could steamroll you out of the building and in the next has no idea where the net is. Turnovers have been a killer and the power play can’t score but somehow and someway this team has found a way to keep it going.
When the game started so did the Rangers and after the first period they had control with a 2-1 lead. The funny thing is that I thought that maybe it was going to be one of those low scoring games where the Rangers lean on Henrik and he has to carry them. But in the second period they seemed to be on their back foot letting Tampa come at them. They handled the pressure as best as they could allowing no goals in the second but it was painful to watch. It had that feeling that if Tampa scored one it was just going to break open.
Thankfully they didn’t and what happened in the third was something no one could have predicted, 5 Ranger goals! Brassard ended up with three goals and 2 assists, Nash had a goal and 3 assists, J.T. Miller had a goal and 3 assists. That line had 13 points combined, and it was a huge story of Game Six. They didn’t sit back and let Tampa come at them, they took the game to them.
But Hank also played a role, stopping key shots. He stopped 36 of 39 shots and made them when the team needed them. The Rangers needed a good game out of Lundqvist and they got it. This team doesn’t go anywhere without Lundqvist , he’s won 6 straight Game 7s. But these are just stats and it has to be played on Friday.
So now the 15-3 in the last 18 elimination game Rangers go home to MSG to a Game Seven. They have to take the game to Tampa by hard hits and attacking play. They have to make sure they don’t give Tampa any space and I can bet that Hank will give them solid goaltending. I’m sure Game Seven will be a nail biter but I’m sure the Rangers will be ready. They rolled seven in Game Six to get to Game Seven let’s see how they get to the Finals.
Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final gave me hope that the Rangers would have learned from the Game Two blistering that they suffered in New York. Now in Tampa Bay they have to compete not only with the Lightning but with the crowd and I wonder if at times they let the crowd and the moment get to them.
It does need to be said that the Rangers did manage to come back and tie the game when they were down and out. But overtime sucked the life right out of it all.
With that in mind I present these thoughts of what I’d do to battle back:
1. Get Marty St. Louis away from the power play and maybe the ice until he can show me where the net is. I’m not sure he has that covered yet. Yes he’s a hall of fame player and a great guy but at some point the skill set runs out and we may be seeing it.
2. Tell Chris Kreider to stop running around with his hair on fire. Did he have to run over Dan Girardi? Calm down son, I know that you took a hit moments before but focus your aggression. I mean, come on, you should know that by now.
3. Can someone please stop letting the Lightning come full steam through the middle of the zone? I know I’m old and all but the defense or even a couple of forwards can backcheck these guys right on their butts. The winning goal, zoom right through the middle. Keep giving up ground and you’ll lose the fight.
4. Speaking of losing the fight, the Rangers got away with being clumsy and sloppy in the last two rounds because of their speed but Tampa’s quickness is making them pay. The Rangers are going to have to commit to leaving someone back at all times to combat that or else it will be a third straight six goal night.
5. If you don’t want a six goal night, there are these guys, and back in my day they used to bring the, out to change the momentum. You never see them anymore and I don’t know why, but when you don’t want someone to push you around, AHEM New York are you listening.? Call on one of your guys to push and shove and make it ugly. Obviously Tampa wants to push the tempo even faster so make them play even slower, but bring in a big boy or two, why not? Coaching is all about changing things up when you have to, old time hockey, Eddie Shore!
6. Please tell Rick Nash to park himself in front of Bishop. Again back in my day they got the biggest guy to stand in front of the goalie on the power play or during the game and screen him. Do they still screen goalies anymore? Damn I feel old. Take a big shot from the point and have Nash waive his arms or something in front of Bishop, have him sing a song or read him a book whatever it takes to distract but Nash is such a big body, he’s one of the few big bodies the Rangers have. Again they are going up against a basketball team and Nash is one of the few who can compete.
7. Someone please please give Lundqvist a little help on the back end. Some of these goals, an easy pass across the crease or a break away because of a crappy turnover, a guy alone because no one picked him up on D. The breakdown of the defense is a killer. I thought this defense was supposed to be the best? And where the hell is the captain? He should be screaming at guys! Hell I’m screaming at them here.
8. It’s time for Coach to shake it up. Enough is enough. Tampa right now is the better team. I believe if they win the next game they’ll take the series. I think New York was on the brink of stealing this game until Lundqvist had a breakdown himself and let in that goal. It seems like everyone is out of sorts. I think it’s time to give them a day away from the rink. When they come back there will be line changes. There will be a mentality change. No more pushed around. No more Stamkos bulldozing Hayes. Right away it ends. That is the way we change it. You can’t play it their way anymore.
Lightning did strike twice for six goals in two games no that is unacceptable plain and simple. It has to be changed and quickly. Sticking to the plain will only get New York run out of the building in Game Four. I think it’s time to make some drastic changes, bring a little Reggie Dunlop, a little Eric Lindros, a little Mark Messier and a little Mike Keenan to the team. Smart, tough-nosed, brutal and at times fight if you have to but no more intimidation. Give it right back. They ran over the Rangers in the Garden it’s time to bloody their noses on their turf.