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The New York Rangers Have To Be Better

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The Rangers can be better, which is good because they have to be better.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, these are the moments when playoff series are won and lost. These moments between games when coaches have the opportunity to truly adjust and adapt to the series happening around them.

Here's the truth of the matter: The Rangers are luck this series is 1-1 heading into Washington rather than being down 2-0. After shooting themselves in the foot in Game 1 the Rangers came into Game 2 better but not as good as they can be. Which is sort of a good thing, since the Rangers do have to be better.

New York did a much better job limiting Alex Ovechkin's opportunities in Game 2, but it still wasn't good enough. Considering he's the best goal scorer of this generation he's going to get chances no matter what, but it's the superfluous chances that need to be negated. Too many times the Rangers defense has looked around to try and find Ovechkin, and more often than not when you lose him for even a second it's too late. If his two goals in this series haven't proven otherwise then I don't know what will.

I'm paraphrasing here, but before Game 2 Alain Vigneault talked about being more aware of Washington's most dangerous players. The Rangers did a really good job of this the first 30 minute in Game 2 before getting progressively worse at it as the game went on.

The good news? Henrik Lundqvist has stood on his head. He's the only reason Game 1 was close for as long as it was and he's a big reason why the Rangers were up 3-1 at one point in the third rather than down 5-3. To be fair, his counterpart has been equally spectacular making this series a lot of fun for those watching who have no interest in either team.

The other side of the puck has to be better, too. The Rangers -- who entered the playoffs third in scoring in the NHL -- have 15 goals in seven playoff games this year. That's just over two goals a game. In other words: not good enough.

One thing I think the Rangers did well in Game 2 was having something to show for their hot start. In both games so far I've thought the Rangers have been the much better team early. The difference? Game 1 that hot start was worth a 0-0 tie, while in Game 2 it was worth a 2-0 lead. That obviously makes an enormous difference.

The power play -- even though it only scored once in Game 2 -- looked really good every time it came on the ice and the Rangers did a good job keeping a level head when Washington started to get silly. Still, finishing off a few more man advantages might help break open games rather than keep them close.

I've thought the Rangers biggest issue so far has been their secondary scorers have outscored their top guys. With Mats Zuccarello presumably out for the rest of this round (if we're lucky) guys like Martin St. Louis, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan need to step up. Kreider, I think, has been outstanding these past two games and Stepan's role has come with the added responsibility of his defensive assignments.

St. Louis? The Rangers need him to show up badly. Rick Nash might not be scoring, but he earned an assist on the Game 2 game-winning goal (after winning the puck in the neutral zone) and provided the work and the screen on the Dan Boyle power play tally. That's two major plays he was directly involved in that helped determine the outcome of the game. St. Louis has been mostly invisible these first seven playoff games, and when he is noticeable it's usually for the wrong reasons.

I speculated St. Louis potentially replacing Zuccarello's offense if not his defense during the First Round, and that has yet to happen. St. Louis has always been a streaky scorer but the Rangers need him to get hot now, especially if they want to take a stranglehold on this series.

The Rangers need to be better. No one is arguing that. The good news?

They easily can be.