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Rangers look to extend series to seven games tonight in Pittsburgh

May 13, 2022, 11:53 AM ET [624 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers look to extend the series to Game 7 tonight in Pittsburgh. Like Wednesday, it's do-or-die. New York got another life with a 5-3 win at MSG. Win tonight and play Sunday to advance. Lose and it's golf clubs early. The early major story is the absence of Sidney Crosby at Penguins' practice today and not expected to dress tonight on the heels of the Jacob Trouba hit that sidelined him the last part of the second and all of the third period Wednesday.

Pittsburgh is dealing with several injuries. Besides Crosby, Rickard Rakell remains sidelined resulting from the hit by Ryan Lindren early in the series. Jason Zucker returned to action in the series, and with Sid out, Evan Rodrigues is centering the second line with Drew O'Connor replacing Crosby in the lineup. In addition, Brian Dumoulin is also likely out tonight. Tristan Jarry skated at practice and manned one of the nets, so he might be the back up to Louis Domingue. If there is a Game 7, Jarry might start for Pittsburgh. 


For New York, Tyler Motte, out since being injured April 7 against Pittsburgh, skated in practice yesterday and is a game-time decision after being cleared to play. If Motte is in, the fourth line then likely becomes Motte-Kevin Rooney-Ryan Reaves, though Dryden Hunt might get in for Reaves. Motte's return lengthens the lineup, making New York harder to face. In addition, Motte gives coach Gerard Gallant another penalty killing option. 

Trouba did not receive any discipline for his hit on Crosby. I am sure he will be a target of the Penguins' fan faithful tonight, same with those on the ice. With Ryan Lindgren suffering no ill-effects from his return to action the other night, if Tyler Motte is ready to go, look for Patrik Nemeth to be a healthy scratch. 

A few keys:
1) Trust the Kid Line - yes, this is a repeat item. You know why? Because it's true. That trio has been the team's best by far. Gallant is and should be recognizing this and playing them substantially more minutes ten they have received.

2) Igor to channel his inner Henrik Lundqvist - We know Lundqvist's record in elimination games. As seen below. Lundqvist was stellar on May 13 with three Game 7 victories. Igor was better in Game 5, especially the last 20 minutes, but he needs to get to another gear. If he puts his stamp on this game and series. then the early comparisons with the King will be even more apt.

Igor needs to block out the crowd noise and be in the zone tonight. The defense and forwards have to do their part, but as the last line of defense, Shesterkin needs to play like the goalie who is a finalist for the Vezina and Hart. Carpe diem, seize the day

3) Mark (meaning to keep focus on) Guentzel - Jake Guentzel has been brilliant this series with seven goals in five games. He is scoring them in all varieties. His first goal Wednesday came as a result of hard work, putting two shots on net, then a third from behind the goal line, banking the puck off Igor's skate. That shows his willingness to go to the dirty areas. The second was him finding space in the slot, which cannot happen. New York needs to have an eye on Guentzel all games, especially if Crosby is out.

4) Get Mika off the milk carton - as Larry Brooks noted, several players have been passengers. "The Rangers need to ramp it up in every facet of the game. They are getting by without much of anything from marquee forwards Artemi Panarin, Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Ryan Strome, the quartet that carried the team’s offense both at five-on-five and on the power play for six months." Of the four, Mika has had the hardest match up, facing Crosby, but he has been invisible offensively. If Crosby is out, Evgeni Malkin is not an easy match up as well, presenting a different challenge, but may that will help unlock Mika's offense.

Could we see Panarin moved up to play with Mika and Kreider and Frank Vatrano skate with Strome and Andrew Copp on a third line? That would make the Kid Line the second line. I would go with Motftte-Rooney-Reaves with Barclay Goodrow still out.

5) Trigger the breakout - go from offense to defense. In that 2:42 span where the Rangers scored three goals, a great forecheck helped create the chances, but they also went from D to O quickly. As Brooks also noted, the porous work in their own zone has impacted the offense and led to several of the goals against. "The team has been trapped for shifts at a time in its own end because of haphazard work in the defensive zone that derails clean breakouts. They have repeatedly yielded acres of good ice and ceded the line on Penguins’ rushes because of poor decisions with the puck." Remediating this weakness is a key to forcing a Game 7 and possibly advancing.

As I said the past few days, I will run this every day for however long the series lasts. I first wrote this in 2014 when the team was down 3-1 to Pittsburgh. What I said certainly applies now, with some very small tweaks, as at the time, New York had never rallied from a 3-1 series deficit.

I am as optimistic as anyone, but would not be shocked if the series ends in Game 6. If it does, what I want to see is heart, passion and effort. Lose but lose with all of it left on the ice. Show some pride for the name on the front of the jersey. Don't just let Pitt walk over you, stand up for yourselves as an athlete and member of the New York Rangers. It doesn't matter who plays and who sits, whoever is in the lineup needs to bring it. To quote Boomer Esiason and it's something I have said a lot, win one shift, then another, then another. Then win one period and another. Then win the game and send it back to MSG  for Game 7.

Heart. It's the willingness to take a hit to move the puck or score a goal. Heart. It's what makes the name on the front of the jersey more than the one of the back. Heart. It's what New Yorkers love to see in their athletes. It's rising over trying circumstances. It's carrying a team or a teammate on your backs when needed. Heart. It can overcome talent when talent doesn't have or use it. Heart. It's what needs to be on display tonight.

Win or lose, We Are All Rangers!!!

New York now has a chance. The pressure is all on the Penguins to avoid a Game 7 which would be at a raucous MSG. In 2014, Pittsburgh blew a 3-1 series lead to New York and Crosby, Letang and Evgeni Malkin are all still around from then. The Rangers, who have Chris Kreider here from that team, can draw upon that history, though only to a certain extent. They still need to get it done on the ice but know from their fore-bearers it can be done. 

My hope is that I will be writing a recap blog of a Game 6 win and preview of Game 7 either Saturday night or Sunday am, since I am out of pocket due to the Sabbath. Sending major positive vibes for a victory tonight. Carry the blog without me, please avoid any internal or fights with trolls.

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