These New York Rangers are cooked. Notice how I didn't say "the" New York Rangers. You see, the Rangers that have shown up to four of the five games this series haven't been the Rangers who won 50 games this season. I've been saying it since Game 3, but don't give me credit, it hasn't been hard to see. But if the regular season New York Rangers show up tonight, they can easily win two games in a row.
The Rangers simply need to go back to the basics. It really does feel as though John Tortorella tried to grease a wheel that wasn't squeaking. He's gotten away from rolling four lines, can't seem to find a single line that he likes for more than a few shifts and his team can't seem to get things together enough to make a difference in crunch time.
It's a frustrating reality to think about what will happen if New York loses tonight. It would be the end of a season which not only saw the Rangers become the league's top team for 80% of the season, but fill fans with hope and expectations they didn't have in September.
Join me after the jump for more.
The Rangers aren't done yet though, and it's certianly not inconceivable for them to win two games in a row, even if the first one is on the road.
Tortorella and the Rangers have made it clear that they're still a confident bunch, despite losing the past two games. The Rangers have been a confident team all season, so it's not surprising to see them continue to believe in themselves even when they're backs are against the wall. And honestly, the fans shouldn't be jumping off the ledge either.
This is a Rangers team who has proven all year that they can overcome adversity, they just have to adapt. Tortorella is going to be forced to adapt, especially after the Brian Boyle injury. He already admitted that he liked what he saw out of Chris Kreider in Game 5, and he will play a much bigger role in Game 6 with Boyle on the shelf.
Speaking of Kreider, I thought he was one of the Rangers best players on Saturday. Every time he was on the ice something happened. He had two moments that stood out in my mind. In the beginning of the game he had a two-on-two rush in which he used his speed to get even with a defender and put a good shot on net (which Craig Anderson turned aside). The second play was in the third period when Kreider worked the puck out from behind the net and fed a brilliant feed to an open Brandon Prust in the slot (Prust fanned on the shot, and then sent his second attempt well wide).
But for as good as Kreider was, his efforts won't make a difference if the top players aren't doing their job. I don't think Marian Gaborik was as bad as some of you think he was in Game 5 (although Brad Richards was horrible), but the simple fact is he's not scoring goals. In fact, he's not even getting chances.
Getting Carl Hagelin back will be a tremendous advantage for the Rangers, since he not only brings possession but chemistry to the top line. It will also help push everyone else down to their proper lines.
That means no more seeing guys like Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan and even Mike Rupp cycling onto and off of the top line. That means Tortorella can roll four lines without having name like Rupp and John Mitchell playing a significant amount of minutes (although I've liked Rupp's game this postseason).
Hopefully it means the Rangers get a win. I still believe, and you should too.
But in the end, it's not our belief that matters, it's theirs.