NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: Brandon Prust #8 of the New York Rangers holds on to Chris Neil #25 of the Ottawa Senators in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 14, 2012 in New York City. The Senators defeated the Rangers 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
This was written prior to yesterday's suspension fiasco. But I still think it holds as a great preview for tonight's game.
I'm not too sure anyone thought that physicality would be a major part of this playoff series between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators, but it is now. The Rangers dominated the physical side of play in Game 1, something I think directly contributed to the team's success.
That prompted me to write this yesterday:
They also won the physical battle, by a mile. They rubbed the Senators off the puck, made them pay for lugging the puck over the blue line and battled hard in the corners. Chris Neil can only do so much in terms of the physical play in this series. The Rangers have 20 players who have no problem going into the tough areas of the ice, and fighting hard when they get there. I'm not so sure the Senators can say they have 10 of those players.
Well, at least in terms of Game 2, I couldn't have been more wrong. The Senators correctly realized that the Rangers were not only the more physical team in the opening game of the series, but it gave them a major edge. So they responded in Game 2. The Rangers did not, and it cost them.
Join me after the jump for more.
The reality of the situation is that this series is only going to get more physical as it continues. The Rangers, for whatever reason, didn't really answer the bell in the second game. Maybe it was because Brandon Dubinsky was thrown out of the game just two minutes in. Maybe it was because Carl Hagelin was assessed a five-minute major penalty for an elbow to Daniel Alfredsson's head.
In the end, it doesn't matter what it was, the Rangers needed to step up their physical game and they didn't. That needs to change tonight, period.
If John Tortorella is going to dress Mike Rupp and John Mitchell (which I don't have a problem with so long as both see more than four minutes of ice time), then one of them needs to take care of Neil. Neil has made it his primary goal to intimidate, harass and throw his weight around the Rangers' smaller players. Rupp and Neil had a few moments where it seemed like they would drop the gloves, but they never did.
That needs to be taken care of, and soon. It's easy for player like Erik Karlsson to throw his weight around when Neil is sitting on the bench. It's not as easy when Rupp or Mitchell drop the gloves with him, take him off the ice for five minutes and send a message.
The Senators sent a message in Game 2: They're not going to be a team that's going to get pushed around. I thought that attitude was actually a good thing for the Rangers early on Saturday, because it seemed like the Senators were off their game and they did end up taking some bad penalties. But the Rangers' power play didn't make them pay, they started to get their feet moving and swung the momentum of the game.
In order to get that momentum back, the Rangers need to return to their strategy from the first game: Outwork the Senators in the tough areas of the ice, be the more physical team and take care of business when opportunities present themselves.
The Rangers did none of those things in Game 2. And it showed.