The Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning will play Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight in Tampa.Game 1 was filled with more good signs than some of us could handle without getting giddy about the Rangers' chances to quickly dispatch the Bolts and move on to the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight year. Game 2 was a very different story. The Rangers despicable effort in Game 2 was more than enough to get captain Ryan McDonagh hot under the collar. The young captain used words like embarrassing, stupid, and selfish to describe the Rangers' undisciplined play that lead to a Lightning 6-2 rout in front of the Garden Faithful.
So tonight, when the puck drops in Florida, the Rangers will be looking to make a statement. The Rangers need to play with emotion, take the body, and defend themselves, but they cannot afford to repeatedly put the Lightning on the power play and play into the hands of one of the scariest offenses and power plays in the league. In Game 2, Tampa was 3 for 6 on the power play. We don't need any more evidence of how dangerous it can be to put guys like Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos on the ice with space to work with in the offensive zone. Given how hard it has been for the Blueshirts to score goals this postseason, any mistakes they make in their own zone that create scoring chances or awful penalties that they take almost always end up as nails put into the coffin of their chances to win a game. Speaking of that struggling offense...
The pressure on Rick Nash to perform and produce in the Playoffs is increasing with each and every shift where he doesn't score a goal. Nash has 2 goals in 14 games in the 2015 Playoffs. It's great to see him trying hard, hustling, and playing a complete game... but Rick Nash needs to score. Larry Brooks had this to say about Nash's inability to find the back of the net in the 2015 Playoffs:
A team can’t win in the playoffs if its best players don’t emerge as its best players. Henrik Lundqvist has been the Rangers’ best player by a greater distance than Secretariat won that Belmont. Ryan McDonagh has elevated.
Nash, though, has been the playoff Nash, and that just isn’t good enough when he’s being relied upon to do much more and be much more for this team. Nash’s 42 goals were twice as many as team runners-up St. Louis and Chris Kreider recorded, so it’s not as if there’s Vic Hadfield and Rod Gilbert on the depth chart behind Jean Ratelle.
If it's possible, Martin St. Louis might be under even more scrutiny than Rick Nash is. The Hall of Fame-bound winger has yet to score in the 2015 Playoffs and has 6 assists in 14 games this postseason. St. Louis is coming off of a 2 assist night in Game 2, but until he starts putting more shots on net, finishing on his golden scoring chances, and making an impact on the Rangers' offense in a winning effort, his solid regular season and his heroics in the playoffs last year won't save him from the ire of Rangers fans.
Marty knows things have to turn around for him in the playoffs, and he's hoping that it starts tonight against the team that he served as the captain of a little over a year ago. From NHL.com:
"I look at last game, the last two games, the first couple of shifts I get a chance in front of the goalie," St. Louis said Wednesday morning. "I don't know. When you don't have that swagger, sometimes you rush things and those are great chances. On the power play, a couple of tips … [if] we end up scoring on them … sometimes when things go your way, those find the back of the net.
"For me, it's trying to put myself in the position to be successful and making the most of it when I get the chance and maybe calm my mind, if you want to say it like that, at that particular time."
The language he is using sounds a lot like a player who is really struggling in regards to his confidence in himself and his game. It sure would be nice for St. Louis or Nash to catch a break on a fortuitous bounce or a quick bang-in play tonight, because the Rangers need them to score and fuel the Rangers' offense just as badly as they need to drastically improve their discipline from the nightmare that was Game 2.
Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Kevin Hayes
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Jesper Fast
Carl Hagelin-Dominic Moore-Marty St. Louis
Tanner Glass-James Sheppard-J.T. Miller
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein
In NHL News:
-Mike Babcock is leaving the Detroit Red Wings, but he's staying in the same division. The man that many think is the best coaching mind in the game has just signed on as the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach.
- This didn't count, but it was still amazing. Andrew Shaw's "header" goal.
Hopefully the Blueshirts will find a way to bounce back and take Game 3 on the road, because given how desperate and distraught Rangers fans were after the Game 2 loss at home, I can't imagine how bad things will be if they head into Game 4 down 2-1. It's time to play like the team that won the Presidents' Trophy again, it's time for some real Rangers hockey. Stay out of the box, contain Tyler Johnson (seems like that little fella knows what he's doing), and find a way to win the battle at even strength and get the offense going.
Let's go Rangers.