The Rangers Can Do This (If They Get Out Of Their Own Way)

So the New York Rangers lost a game they shouldn’t have? They blew two separate two-goal leads, were seemingly undermined by their own coach’s poor decision making, and lost a critical game?

It’s so very New York Rangers to have their backs up against the wall in the playoffs — in this case down 2-0 in a series that should be at least tied.

You know what else is so very New York Rangers? Pushing themselves away from the cliff and punching themselves back into the fight.

I’m not going to pretend you shouldn’t have a concerned pit in your stomach about tonight’s matchup. We’ve already seen the Rangers prove that the bad side of this team can quite easily lose to the Ottawa Senators; mostly because they already have. And this is as must-win as games come when they’re not literally a must-win game.

This is the same team that reeled off three-straight wins to send Montreal home (so long as, you know, the coach keeps it that way), though. That team hasn’t shown its face in this series yet, but they’re out there somewhere, lurking.

I don’t know why it takes these moments of desperation to pull the good side of the Rangers toward the light, but it does. Per the Rangers media we’re not allowed to shine blame on the coach, but even if you wanted to logically say the team not being ready for the first two playoff games of the Second Round was on the guy at the helm,  the players need blame here, too. We hear often about how much veteran leadership is in the room and about how they’re going to help the Rangers get through this. But, if that’s the case, shouldn’t they help the Rangers not get into the situation in the first place?

The Rangers have a lot of work to do here, and there’s no dearth of veterans who can help them work through it. The core of this team has been here before — worse in fact — overcoming 3-1 deficits to the Penguins in 2014 during their Stanley Cup run and then the same hole against the Capitals a year later. In fact, that series took a Chris Kreider tying goal at the death of Game 5 to force overtime. That’s as close to the jaws of defeat I’ve ever been as a Rangers fan to end up winning the series anyway.

The Rangers have been there before. This core has. They have the ability to win the next two games, put all the pressure back on Ottawa for Game 5, and turn the series around. Right now, all the Senators need to do is split a game on the road. They don’t have to win tonight, but they’ll feel pressure to win Game 4 so they can avoid that must-win Game 5 in their own house. The Rangers are not dead yet, but they are on the edge.

Alain Vigneault has a big decision to make. Does he ignore the need for speed and skill to break through the Senators’ trap and thrown in Tanner Glass to bog down the fourth line? Does he try to slow the game down even more for a team that thrives in it? Or will he swallow his pride and admit that all things considered it was more his lack of using quality players that sunk the ship on Saturday?

It’s not all on him, though. J.T. Miller needs to find himself, and soon. The budding star of a youngster had the best year of his career, and now has a single assist in eight playoff games. It would be one thing if he was contributing but not finishing, but you or I would have as much impact as he’s having most nights. It’s a problem neither myself nor the team was prepared to face.

Kevin Hayes has been more active, but not much more of a factor. His contributions seem to come and go (he was vital in game 6 against Montreal) but the Rangers need him, too. They can’t keep expecting to live on the edge of five goals worth of offense when two of their top-five forwards aren’t contributing.

Kreider gets a one-day pass because of his performance in Game 2. Here’s to him continuing that trend of upward growth.

Nick Holden and Marc Staal simply have to be better, as well. There’s a case to be made for blaming AV for putting them in that situation but let’s just allow that blame to be shared equally. Dan Girardi hasn’t been nearly as effective as he was in the first round (speed kills) but he’s not the biggest defensive problem right now.

The Rangers have to be better. Plain and simple. They can be better to.

If they can get out of their own way long enough to let it happen.