One of the more used sayings during the NHL Playoffs is, "now it's a three-game series." The meaning is simple. Two teams are tied 2-2 in their series, so it's as though their playoff series has become a best of three rather than a best of seven.
Well, that's what the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators are looking at right now. This ideology, of course, disregards the past four games of the series, which will certianly have an impact on the next three games; even if it's nothing more than mental.
But the main point remains the same. Both teams are on a level playing field again, and it all comes down to who can win two games first. The Rangers hold an advantage, since two of those games (if a Game 7 is needed) will be held at Madison Square Garden. Then again, both teams are 1-1 at home and on the road in the series, so home ice hasn't played a big factor in this series as of yet.
Join me after the jump for more.
Let's take a look at the last game these two teams played. Thursday night Kyle Turris sniped the top corner on a brilliant shot that gave the Senators a 3-2 overtime victory to knot the series at two. After the game John Tortorella refused to say the Rangers played a bad game, just that they didn't get the job done in overtime.
Not getting the job done in overtime is another Rangers' playoff theme dating back to the days when Chris Drury was wearing a Buffalo Sabres jersey. Regardless, the Rangers are 0-2 in playoff overtimes this series, something that's obviously kept the Senators in this series.
And while the Rangers didn't play horrible against the Senators in Game 4 (although they didn't play particularly well either), I don't think we've seen the real New York Rangers yet this playoffs -- aside from Game 1. The Rangers are sitting back on leads, getting outworked in the defensive zone and can't seem to posses the puck for more than a shift without getting hemmed back into their own zone.
The loss of Carl Hagelin is a big part of this. Without him the Rangers lose their top forechecker, and the first line has looked out of sync without his speed and his ability to cause turnovers in the offensive zone. Tortorella tried rookie Chris Kreider on that top line in Game 3, but then only gave Kreider three minutes of ice time in Game 4 and cycled player after player as the third member of Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards' line.
In the end, none of them worked. Both Richards and Gaborik had two assists in the game, but both came on the power play.
I personally believe that Kreider deserves another shot on the top line, but that's for a post which will go up sometimes this afternoon. For now, the Rangers are aware that the season might boil down to tonight's game. Trust me, you don't want to be down 3-2 heading back into Ottawa.
Which makes the next motto: Don't panic.
Andrew Gross interviewed Ruslan Fedotenko yesterday during practice, and Fedotenko said a few things I wanted to share here, mainly this:
Fedotenko said it wasn't a trick but the ideal was to "stay loose but focus like normal, don't put any - especially the young guys - emphasis on how important this game is. Don't start stressing out. For the old guys, realize what it is but be ready for it."
To sum up, Fedotenko said the Rangers "need to get back to our style."
Sometimes it's easy to forget just how much youth is on this roster. Some Rangers have handed it well (Artem Anisimov, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh), some Rangers have handled it not so well (Derek Stepan) and some Rangers haven't played enough for us to get a good feel (Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin).
But to see the team recognize and understand that they need to keep the youth loose is a good thing. And to see Fedotenko realize the Rangers need to get back to their style is a better thing.
Because their style is what's gotten them this far in the first place.