Rangers fall 2-0 in Game 2, series on brink for Game 3 today at MSG
The Rangers return to action at MSG today with the season pretty much on the line. Down 2-0 to the 'Canes after falling 2-0, in order for the team to have any chance in making this a series a win is needed. The Garden faithful need to be out in full force today, propelling the team forward.
A few thoughts:
1) Lineup: New York started Friday's game as they ended Wednesday's and several games since Tyler Motte returned to action. But because the effort was so futile, coach Gerard Gallant got out the blender, which he considered doing prior to the contest. I would love to say that spurred the team on, but honestly, the results were the same.
Gallant juggled his combinations late in the second, breaking up the Kid Line so he could flip Alexis Lafreniere with Andrew Copp and get Lafreniere into the top six. Lafreniere showed something, but the line changes, under which Frank Vatrano also was replaced by Kaapo Kakko on the right with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, yielded nothing. That included the newly created third line Copp-Filip Chytil-Vatrano. The question then is now what?
Carolina has squeezed the neutral zone, preventing New York from getting anything gone. In addition, their forecheck has not allowed the Rangers any time and space. The Nino Niederreiter-Jordan Staal-Jesper Fast line has rendered the Rangers' top line with Zib invisible. Kreider (one), Mika (four) and Artemi Panarin (two) have combined for seven shots on goal in the series.. Ryan Strome has had the best chances, but he either has hit bodies in front or put weak shots on net.
Nothing really has been working save for the Kid Line. The debate then is do you break up the one line that is working hoping to jumpstart the others or do you keep the one line together that has been creating chances? In addition, another factor is with having the last chance at home, Gallant can get the Zib line away from the Staal trio, at least initially, Decisions, decision for Gallant, the right one could turn the series.
Caroina is 6-0 at home but went 0-3 in Boston. Maybe the last change has made that big of a difference. It could today. My view is rooted in the definition of insanity. Repeating the same action and expecting a different result. Frank Vatrabo's game has completely leveled off, Copp has struggled as well, Kreider had the one big game in the playoffs, but really has not been a difference maker. I am not an advocate or change for change's sake, but I do think a tweak is needed here.
Move Laf up, have him start opposite Kreider and Zib initially. Elevate Chytil to play with Panarin and Kakko. Move Strome down to play with Copp and Motte. Slide Vatrano to the fourth line with Ronney and Reaves or play Jonny Brodzinski for some additional speed. I could see Vatrano on a line with Strome and Copp, but if mixing lines, really mix them up.
On D, you need quickness and puck handling. I would try Zac Jones with Braden Schendier, shielding up as much as possible, sitting Justin Braun. I could see Gallant doing nothing but at least these would give the team a possible jumpstart.
2) Powerless play - No real opportunities in Game 1, but in Game 2, they had chances. Coming in we spoke about how good the Canes penalty kill was, as they were first in the league at 88 percent. Boston had some success with Carolina dropping to 79% successful kill rate. Gallant needs to go to the tape and figure out what Boston did because right now, New York should just decline the penalty.
New York went 0-for-4 in 7:38 of work fRIDAY, but the feared power-play unit was able to generate just three attempts and two shots on Antti Raanta. The Blueshirts were under constant stress while forced to go back and start again multiple times. They did not generate a single power-play scoring chance, according to Natural Stat Trick. Read that again, not a single scoring chance and the one real goal came shorthanded.
Carolina pressures the puck through the neutral zone and the points. They are making Adam Fox's job miserable and impossible, forcing quick decisions. First, dump the puck in slowly and chase, punish the Carolina D as they are doing to Fox. When they retrieve the puck, you don't have time to delay, quick passes and decisions. Get shots on net, put a second forward high since they are eliminating the bumper spot to force their penalty kill to make decisions. If need be, swap Strome and Laf to get a different look.
3) Effort - I know it looks like they are not trying, but Carolina is basically squeezing the life out of them. Plus, I do put some weight into what Panarin said, that they are basically playing conservatively, which limits their chances. Plus, when nothing happens due to that, they look lazy. The team as a whole have played poorly, which also makes them look lazy with little effort put forth. This may be partially the case but not completely.
When they lose battles on the wall, they look lazy. Failed breakouts or passes coupled with turnovers make them look like they have little effort. Carolina is beating them in every aspect, but with a smidge of luck, the series would be 1-1 and not 2-0, but that is not the case.
4) The ex-Rangers right now are outplaying the current Rangers. Raanta has been good when needed, channeling the lessons learned while backing up Henrik Lundqvist and under the tutelage of Benoit Allaire. A shutout in Game 2 and the key save on Chytil in Game 1. Brendan Smith, who many of us wanted back, especially if on the cheap deal he signed in Carolina, would be eons better than Braun or Patrik Nemeth. His in-between period interview in Game 1 was excellent insight into the Carolina thinking and likely aided the team in their comeback. In Game 2, he had basically the lone goal shorthanded.
5) MSG - the Garden has carried the team in the past. Today needs to be one of those days. If not, the series is pretty much all but lost. Get Igor fired up, get the team rolling and be a detriment to the opponent.