|Game 6, another elimination game for the Rangers, is Tuesday night|
Welcome everyone to another blog here on DOINOW.com. As you already know by now, these blogs are a tad belated this series due to the late playoff times. Plus, after a win I like to celebrate and after a loss, I like to re-watch the game back, to see what went wrong.
The Rangers dropped Game 5, 2-0, to the Tampa Bay Lightning, in their Eastern Conference Finals Best of 7 series. As a result of the loss, the Rangers find themselves down in a 3-2 hole and will have to win in 7, if they play on returning to the Stanley Cup Finals this year. For the Rangers, it was more or less of the same. Nothing is ever easy. When they have a chance to put a team away, and not have their backs against the wall, the Rangers find a way to lose. At the same time, when it matters most, the Rangers have found ways to win the big game, more times than not.
Since the latest lockout (and it seems we will be destined for another one down the line, it’s just the cost of doing business in the NHL), the Rangers have been in three out of the last four Eastern Conference Finals. In 2012, they lost to the Devils, after just being spent. It was arguably Hank’s best playoff run as a Ranger. In 2013, they were bounced out in the second round by the Bruins, a series that cost Tortorella his job. In 2014, AV’s first year as coach, they defeated the Canadiens in 6, to make the Stanley Cup Finals. Here in 2015, they are two games away from another Cup appearance, but one loss away from having their season finished.
In these last successful, but Cup-less, four years, the Rangers are 14-3 in elimination games. That’s an impressive stat, but it also tells you that the Rangers are horrible at just putting teams away. You rarely see the Rangers win a series in four or five games. They seem to always play deep in every series. In fact, in these last four years, the Rangers are also 6-0 in game 7’s. Can they add to these stats or are they due to bust? Who knows at this point. The only thing that you know about the Rangers are that they are consistent at being inconsistent.
It’s hilarious reading people’s predictions about this series. No one is right, because you never know what NY Rangers team will show up. Is it the one that will score a bunch of goals? The one that puts up a goose egg? The one where the goalie is lights out? The one where the goalie has more red lamps behind him than a fried chicken joint in Ferguson? The one where the PP is electric? The one where the PP is as useful as testicular cancer? The one where the PK is unbreakable? The one where the PK has more leaks than a Hurricane Katrina levee? You just never know what Rangers team will show up for any given game.
I’ll say it here now, and get into why as we go along in this blog, I just don’t see the inconsistent Rangers winning two games in a row against this Tampa team. When this series is over, I have a funny feeling that we will be just wondering “WHAT IF Henrik Lundqvist didn’t blow Game 3?”
|It feels inevitable that Lundqvist will fail again this season|
When you look at the Rangers in the salary cap era, they have focused their money/salary cap at the starting goalie position. They’ve invested 10% of team payroll in that department. I talked about this earlier in this series, but even if Lundqvist gives up one goal a game for the rest of his life, but the team doesn’t score, at what point do you have to shake up the teams make-up? It’s great that he has great games from time-to-time, but if the offense is having more bad games than the goalie is having good games, is Lundqvist really worth 10% of team payroll?
Point being – look at the teams that have won Stanley Cups in recent years. None of the goalies are paid 10% of team payroll nor are they even ranked 1-5 in salary. If the Rangers waste another Lundqvist prime year, when do you just say it’s time to cut bait, reorganize payroll and try to focus on the offense more? The Rangers have already proven they can win games with Talbot and perhaps if they could ever get Hank to waive his no-trade clause, they could use the extra money to beef up the lines.
If the Rangers can not win their next two games, it will be the second season in a row that Lundqvist had a terrible game in a series, that wound up costing his team their season. And yes, you can blame Lundqvist. He gets all the money. He gets all the fame. He wants all the credit for victories. I really hope the Rangers can pull this out and make game 3 of this series a long forgotten thought.
|Will Lundqvist ever win a Stanley Cup in NY?|
Game 5’s in a 2-2 series are pivotal games and can swing a series. I believe NBC flashed some stat, where 75% of the time,,a team that wins a Game 5, wins the whole series. I wouldn’t put much into that stat with these Rangers, as the Rangers have showed much resolve and find ways to win these big elimination games. Game 5’s always force an elimination Game 6, and while the Rangers have dropped a bunch of Game 5’s over the years, they have done remarkably well in Game 6’s and Game 7’s.
I can’t lie though, this Tampa Bay team is not like a team the Rangers have come back on before. To come back on Tampa Bay, it will be the Rangers biggest feat yet.
Let’s talk the goalies in this game, as really, Lundqvist vs Bishop has determined every game. After all, Lundqvist looked great in stealing game one, gave up back-to-back touchdowns in games 2 & 3, while Bishop was coming off back-to-back performances of giving up 5 spots.
In Game 5, both goalies played remarkably well. However, Bishop was better. Bishop finished with a 26 save shutout, while Lundqvist finished with 20 saves on 22 shots. Is this loss on Lundqvist? Of course not, can’t blame the goalie when you can’t score. However, was Bishop better than Lundqvist again? He sure was. Again, you know my argument/spiel on the salary cap and all that, but yea, what’s the point of paying someone 10% of team payroll if you’re getting the same, if not better, production on the other end and at a cheaper rate?
I said in my Game 4 blog, I don’t think Lundqvist was that superior. He got a lot of puck luck, four posts and TBL shooters shooting wide at open nets. However, it was a game he needed to win. On the flipside, Bishop was coming off two horrible performances, (Again, which really makes you upset about Hank for blowing Game 3) and needed his redemption victory. Well, Bishop redeemed himself in Game 5, getting the shutout.
Was Bishop that remarkable? He was great, no question, but at the same time, it was one of the easiest shutouts a goalie could ever have. I think Bishop made 4 or 5 really good saves. He got a lot of shotblocking from his defense, as it seemed the Rangers were hellbent on making sure the TBL defense got back, so they could shoot a puck right at them.
|Anyone see him in Game 5?|
After having his best playoff game as a Ranger in game 4, Rick Nash was invisible in game 5. Even when he wasn’t scoring goals, which has been the norm for him in the playoffs, Nash was a force on the ice, getting his shots off, making some hits and just being victim of some bad puck luck. In this game, Nash barely got any quality shots off. Instead of using any momentum from Game 4 into this Game 5, Nash, as well as Martin St. Louis, went back to their normal selves.
I’ve talked about this before with MSL as well, but how many times will he just wiff and wave at pucks in these playoffs? If the Rangers don’t win in Tampa on Tuesday, it’s going to be hard to envision MSL ever calling MSG home again, and that’s even if he signs for the veteran minimum.
At this point, I wonder if MSL is just better off retiring and going into coaching for the Wolfpack, since his residence is in Connecticut. I don’t know if coaching is what he wants to do, after his playing career, but he seems like he would be a good coach. He’s taken Stamkos under his wing, when he was in Tampa. Look at him now. He improved the games of and was a leader for Zuccarello, Hayes & Hagelin this year. He works with his kids on their games. He has a knack of being a positive influence and definitely knows the game.
It’s always tough for the great ones and in this case, a future Hall of Famer, to hang up the skates. However, he might serve the Rangers better in the coaching department, rather than as a player, next season. I’ll never forget what MSL meant for this team in last years playoff run, but age has caught up to MSL faster than I’ve ever seen in a professional athlete.
|Valtteri Filppula out-prettied Lundqvist in Game 5|
As opposed the massive goal scoring we’ve seen in Games 2, 3 and 4, this series reverted to a defensive battle in Game 5. Filppula scored the game winner aka the first goal in this game, 13:29 into the second period, via a wrist shot. Put this goal all on Hank. Sure, his 20 saves were nice and all and the Rangers didn’t score for him, but this goal changed the game a bit. Filppula took a wrist shot and Hank looked lost trying to defend it. Just a terrible goal to let in.
The second goal was completely on the Rangers, as they were defenseless and gave Lundqvist no chance. After a silly Marc Staal penalty, late into the second period, Stamkos was left all alone for a tic-tac-toe goal with 90 seconds left in the second period. Christopher Reeves, today, could’ve scored that goal. The goal, a PPG for Tampa, saw Hank sell and bite big on Palat, as Palat moved the puck across ice to a wide open Stamkos. Can’t blame Hank for a PPG, especially one where the defense just collapsed in front of him. For as much as I thought big bucks Hank should’ve stopped the first goal, the second goal was completely on the Rangers.
|Yandle was horrible in Game 5|
Keith Yandle, the man the Rangers traded their future for, in hopes for a Cup this season, was horrible in Game 5. It’s amazing for a professional hockey player, how many times Yandle will either throw the puck in the middle of his own zone, skate and turnover the puck in front of his own net, or instead of shooting a puck at a wide open net, will force a pass that goes nowhere. Win or lose this series, this Yandle trade looks like a bust.
|The Rangers are really missing their fan favorite|
Reports out of Tampa are that Mats Zuccarello was practicing. He hasn’t played since the Pittsburgh series. A game like tonight makes you really miss Zucc. I feel like Kreider has tried to bring Zucc’s grittiness and fire to the team. When the Rangers needed a spark, Zucc was there. In a lifeless game like this, the Rangers surely missed their fireplug. The Rangers escaped the Capitals without Zucc, but it seems like the Rangers really needed all hands on deck for this series.
Everyone is tight-lipped, so no one knows what’s truly up with Zucc. However, it would be amazing if he could give the Rangers that “Willis Reed” moment. They need something to awaken the beast.
|Can King Midas find his touch in Game 6?|
I saw a few idiots on twitter blaming Vigneault for the loss. Are you nuts? He’s not the one that went 0-4 on the PP tonight. He’s not the one that decides to skate right in front of the net, then toss a pass backwards 100 feet. It’s not like Tampa was that great tonight, as much as the Rangers failed to execute.
I mean give Tampa some credit, everyone thought their weakness in this series would be their defense. Instead, Tampa shut down the Rangers, after giving up 10 goals in 2 games. It seemed every time the Rangers crossed the blue line, Tampa swarmed in and made a quick clear. I would be shocked if I found out the Rangers had more than 3 minutes of fluid time moving the puck in Tampa’s zone, 5 on 5. On the other end, the Rangers failed to meet Tampa at the blue line, Tampa got right in and had their merry way of moving the puck around.
The powerplay is what really kills you. After seemingly turning it around the last two games, the Rangers were horrible tonight. They started off ok, as Bishop was good and Tampa’s defense was better, but the last two PP’s were a complete abortion. It was pathetic. I’m pretty sure Tampa had more shots on net shorthanded, than the Rangers had PP shots in their last two attempts. In a game where the Rangers just needed a goal (Before the Stamkos tip-in), the Rangers could not do it.
This was just a terrible game to decide to lay a goose egg on. The Rangers now have to win 2 games in a row against their toughest rival all season. Tampa has been “out-Rangering” the Rangers this series, with scoring when it matters most, great goaltending at important times, strong defense and killing penalties.
Win or lose, the person many people will be looking at will be Henrik Lundqvist. His Game 3 performance could cost the Rangers the series. He was fine here tonight, and again, while the offense was terrible (Can’t win, if you don’t score), Bishop was better. That’s now two goalies who have posted shutouts against the Rangers in these playoffs. The Rangers might need Hank to get one on Tuesday if they want any chance of bringing this series back to MSG. Even then, is home ice an advantage for these Blueshirts?
Give Tampa credit. They wanted it more. The Rangers looked lost and frustrated all game. They got away from everything that was working in Games 3 & 4. The Rangers didn’t shoot the puck as frequently, had no one crashing the net for rebounds and deflections, overpassed themselves out of looks and had trouble getting the puck deep.
As far as Game 7 goes, Tuesday may be the obituary on this season. .What you have to like, if you’re an optimist, is that these Rangers are a veteran team and have been in these situations before. They can do this and win this. If the Rangers can pull of a win in Tampa, Lundqvist will have a shot at going 7-0 in Game 7’s during these last four years. Impossible? No. Probable, unfortunately no.
I go back to what I said earlier. You just never know what team will show up. These games are tough to predict and there is no flow in this series. Anyone trying to sell you predictions is selling you a bunch of bullshit.
The majority of you reading this all want the Rangers to win. I want the Rangers to win. I can’t lie though, this is the worst I’ve ever felt about this team coming back. A team that’s consistently inconsistent now has to win 2 games against the best offense they’ve seen during their run.
However, I remain true….
LET’S GO RANGERS
WE WANT THE CUP
TAKE DOWN TAMPA
GAME 7 FRIDAY!
See you Tuesday, enjoy the rest of your 3-day weekend.
@NYCTHEMIC on twitter