- In Game One the Rangers' defense let them down. That wasn't totally a surprise, especially because Dan Girardi and Marc Staal were at the forefront of that. A lot of people argued the offense should take the blame there, but I disagree. When the defense is giving up bad goals like that it kills your momentum, but whatever. In Game Two the Rangers actually played a pretty good overall game. The offense scored four goals the defense played well enough to hold Pittsburgh to two and we didn't even see too much of the third period shell. Great.
- Outside of Sidney Crosby posting up on the left post twice on the power play (the first time he missed the puck) without being guarded -- lack of adjustments is going to become a theme here -- and a bizarre accidental collision between Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle that led to the game-winning goal, the defense pitched a pretty good game. So for the offense to score one goal, take 17 shots and only take two shots once they went down 2-1 in the third is totally inexcusable.
- There's a lot of blame to go around here. The players need blame for trying to be too fancy, not crashing the net and generally refusing the dump and chase. That falls on the coach, too. After the game Derek Stepan talked about how the Rangers didn't do enough to break through the Penguins' four-guy stacked neutral zone trap. You know how you get around it? You dump and chase. The Rangers tried to get into the zone with possession, either they lost the puck or the play broke down, then they dumped when the Penguins were already on their heels. Those adjustments have to come from the coach. They didn't. The only changes Alain Vigneault made was sitting Kevin Hayes for a good chunk of the third period.
- What the Rangers did, over and over and over again, was try the long stretch pass down the side to break in. A few times -- mainly with Kreider -- it worked well enough to get the Rangers a shot, but it often dissipated from there because Pittsburgh was crashing back to defend. The Rangers seemed to hate having possession on their stick in the offensive zone, often trying to make quick passes into packs of players that led to turnovers. Bad all around.
- Another thought I had: I think the Rangers played too physical. They were far more interested in hitting than the puck or possession. One memory that sticks out was Hayes passing the puck in the offensive zone to throw a hit along the boards. The Rangers seemingly avoided trying to get the puck in order to throw their weight around. Great. They won the hit battle, but lost the game. I'm trying to figure out which is more important.
- Vigneault's adjustments to this loss will be as follows: Hayes will be sitting for Lindberg and Girardi might come in for Brady Skjei. I'm very confident on the former, around 50% for the latter. Either way, the Lindberg for Hayes move is lateral. The Girardi thing, well, I don't need to say what that would do. That i can predict this is not a good thing.
- Speaking of horrible decisions/lack of adjustments: Vigneault matched up the Tanner Glass-led fourth line against Crosby. Intentionally, of course, since the Rangers have home ice and the last change. It worked about as well as expected. In the third period the fourth line was crushed in their own zone against Crosby, and could do little to stop him. Vigneault amended this by, well, doing nothing actually.
- Potential hot take alter (but the more I think on it the more I agree with myself): Ryan McDonagh should not have played last night. Or, at the very least, he should not have played such an offensive role. It's pretty clear McDonagh is playing through discomfort and he couldn't even shoot the puck. His passes weren't crisp, either. He was solid on defense, but from an offensive perspective he was somewhat detrimental. So Vigneault -- fitting in with the leaning on veterans thing -- had him out there a lot late (McDonagh played almost 10 minutes in the third, most of any defenseman) and even had him out with the empty net. McDonagh had space at the point with about 40 seconds left and didn't even shoot the puck. Why is he out there if he's hurting like that? More importantly, how did the coach not realize that?
- After the game Vigneault talked about all the things we knew already without getting into specifics about what he was going to do to change it up. I really hope Vigneault was just playing his cards close to the vest with the media -- and he very well might have been -- but he needs to make a systemic adjustment if the Penguins are going to play like that.
- The Chris Kreider overturned goal was the right call. It was damn close, but J.T. Miller looked offside. With that being said, these challenges have to be streamlined. Sitting and waiting for over five minutes while they looked at the video killed any momentum the Rangers had, and the two minors the Rangers worked with after that were some of the most disjointed power plays of the playoffs. That's on the Rangers, too, but these reviews have gotten out of hand on a national level.
- Kris Letang did this and there wasn't even a penalty. This comes on the heels of Stepan getting boarded from behind in Game Two with a predatory textbook illegal hit without a penalty. The Stepan hit came with no supplemental discipline. My guess is the Department Of Player Safety will not even look at the slash. I know this is a tired narrative (and one I often do not make) but if that happened to Crosby do you think it would be ignored? I'm asking. I say no, but we'll (hopefully) never find out.
- Speaking of: The officiating was pretty bad. The Letang thing aside, the power play the Penguins tied the game on was a joke (Carl Hagelin holds Staal's stick and then goes down, penalty Staal) and in the third period Crosby had his entire stick wrapped around (I think it was) Yandle's waist for about 10 feet without a call. The officiating has been bad on a national level as well, but it's sad that this is even a talking point.
- I loved Miller all night. And Kreider. I thought Stepan was good, too. The Eric Staal, Hayes, Jesper Fast line wasn't much of a factor, though, and I also can't even remember if Derick Brassard played. I do think (my speculation) Staal is playing through an injury -- probably a shoulder injury.
- I really thought Rick Nash -- who scored the opening goal that counted -- was feeling it. He was a beast last night, dominant in all three zones and was a force.
- Skjei had another solid game. He actually was the bottom of the shot differential table for the Rangers, but based off the eye test I thought he played a solid game. There were a few shifts where he made a couple of poor decisions that stick out in my mind, but overall I thought he played well. And good for Vigneault for continuing to give him power play and penalty kill time.
- The benefit of being the road team if you split the home leg completely disappears if you lose a game at home. Now the Rangers have to win Game Four -- so all the pressure is one them -- and even then two of the next three games are in Pittsburgh.
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