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Handy Dandy Playoff Notebook: Have to Win On Home Ice

  • Anyone who has ever went on vacation is likely familiar with tourist trap gift shops, especially ones you find on boardwalks near the beach. One thing that stands out to me is the slew of “I went on vacation to X, and all I got was this dumb...” gifts.
  • Well I have something in that spirit, and that is “I spent $8 on airplane Wi-Fi and all I got was a Brendan Smith shorthanded goal while the Rangers were on a four-minute powerplay.” That doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but that summarizes the extent of my Game 2 experience.
  • Friday evening’s game wasn’t exactly the trap era New Jersey Devils, but it was one of the more low event Ranger games in recent memory. A game in which the Carolina Hurricanes somehow looked worse than they did in Game 1, and had it not been for that Brendan Smith goal, it could have ended up being a winnable game.
  • I tweeted this from above 31,000 feet, and it accurately depicts my feelings about the game, and where things stand for the Rangers heading into this afternoon’s pivotal Game 3 vs. Carolina.
  • I understand that the emotions of the majority of the fanbase have shifted after two games of play vs. the Hurricanes. Coming off an emotional Game 7 victory over Pittsburgh, many were ready to call the season a success, and that anything that happened next was an appreciated extra.
  • But then the Rangers almost stole Game 1, and could have won Game 2, and all of a sudden it became very easy to see a scenario in which the team pulls off an upset to get to the conference finals.
  • Essentially, I feel this is what’s happened... and or is happening.
  • That aside, let’s get to the matter at hand. The Rangers have a game on home ice, and they’ll look to prevent Carolina from picking up their first road win of the playoffs. For as good as the Canes have been at home, they’ve not had the same success away from PNC Arena.
  • In three road games thus far Carolina has been outscored 14 to 6, and has recorded two goals in each game. Understandably the style of play thus far has been different this series, but I am going to mention it even though it is a three game sample.
  • Artemiy Panarin had a lighthearted quote the other day about wanting to do “stupid shit” at the blueline but he can’t because of the team’s conservative playstyle thus far, and I think that needs to be thrown out the window today.
  • The Rangers have this season’s best goalie in net, and he’s capable of making big saves when needed. I am not advocating for the team to revert to the way things were during the Penguins series, but there’s a happy medium between that and how the Rangers have played thus far. A medium that sees the offensive players take charge and have the impact they did during the regular season.
  • Specifically I’d like to see Kreider use his speed and frame to drive up the ice and create some havoc. He has the tools to be a difference maker, and with the power play struggling he needs to find another way to be effective.
  • Overall the top players need to step up and assert themselves. I think the top line including Vatrano has run its course, and Gerard Gallant should break it up. The Kid Line should get more minutes, and if not Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko should return to their previous spots in the top six which would see Filip Chytil paired with Andrew Copp and Vatrano.
  • The line of Kreider-Zibanejad-Lafrenière was very effective during the regular season. The line of Panarin-Strome-Kakko was really good too. If the Rangers do ultimately get eliminated in this series, it would be better to have it happen with them swinging with their best lineup.
  • But that said, while things look grim, the Rangers need to take it one game at a time. It is just as easy for them to get back into this series and they went down. They’ve essentially been the comeback kids all year long, and I we will see if they stay true to form and live up to their potential.