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Handy Dandy Playoff Notebook: Here We Go Again

  • The New York Rangers are headed to a Game 7 vs. the Carolina Hurricanes, an outcome that is surprising to the many pundits who expected this to be a short series given how the Blueshirts played in Round 1 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • A New York Rangers team that went down 2-0, tied it 2-2 after a pair of games on home ice, went down 3-2, and leveled things at 3-3 with a 5-2 victory on Saturday evening at Madison Square Garden. The script remained the same, and once again the Hurricanes were unsuccessful in earning a win on the road, and the Rangers won again in their own building.
  • Tonight the Rangers will look to pick up their first road win of the series, and their second of the playoffs overall. The Blueshirts lost Game 3 and 4 at PPG Paints Arena in Round 1, but found a way to earn a victory with their backs against the wall in Game 6 of that series.
  • In essence, the Rangers are back in familiar territory, and hopefully head into this game with a knowledge of what went wrong in Game 5. I’ve said it a million times before, but the Rangers were oh so close to stealing a win in Game 1, and it just slipped away. Game 2 brought additional frustrations, and then there was Game 5.
  • Based on everything else that has happened in this series and playoffs, Carolina is going to be considered the favorite to win. But the beauty of a Game 7 is that the Rangers just need to figure out a way to have success once against this team on the road to move on and advance.
  • The Rangers have manufactured wins all year long, and barring an unseen explosion offensively from the top six that just overwhelms the Hurricanes, Game 7 is going to have to be a combination of randomness while Igor Shesterkin does his thing.
  • Game 6 saw elements of this with Tyler Motte of all people scoring the opening goal of the game. And then you had Filip Chytil score a pair of goals. Mika Zibanejad and Artemiy Panarin scored as well, and the Rangers will be in much better shape overall if they can continue to make positive contributions.
  • Speaking or making positive contributions, Shesterkin made 37 saves and picked up 2 assists, and once again rose to the occasion looking very locked in. Game 7 offers another big opportunity for him, and a chance for him to showcase why he’s one of the best in the league.
  • Chris Kreider has been uncharacteristically quiet, and Game 7 offers an opportunity for him to have a major impact to help extend the Rangers’ playoff run. Kreider has a line of 6-3-9 in 13 playoff games, but just one goal, one assist, and 10 shots on goal in 6 games vs. the Hurricanes
  • It has been a low scoring affair for both sides in general, and to that point Brendan Smith has been one of the Hurricanes’ top offensive players. Go figure.
  • Barclay Goodrow came back in Game 6, and by the sounds of it his return provided an emotional lift to the team.
  • Goodrow played 13:16 in the game, and 3:15 of that came on the penalty kill. When healthy he’s proven to be a decent defensive player and a true heart and soul guy, and adds NHL depth to the lineup. Him and Motte work well as a tenacious forechecking duo, and having him back in the lineup is a positive.
  • With all of that said, tonight is a winner take all game. Once again the Rangers just need to find a way to win. They can draw upon past experience as a guide, but the game plan should be fairly simple.
  • The Rangers have been at their best when they push the pace, forecheck, and take the body. They’ve been unsuccessful when they’ve sat back and played slow while continually dumping the puck in. Antti Raanta had a rough Game 6, and Carolina was able to rally a bit when he was yanked.
  • The style of play changed a bit with the Rangers holding a lead, and this chart highlights the difference Igor made.
  • Collectively Raanta and the Canes will be ready to execute their game plan from the get-go, and the Rangers simply have to match the intensity and “weather the storm.” In a game like this, the Rangers need to be aggressive and go for a knockout punch.
  • It has been a lot of fun watching this Rangers squad play, and I think I speak for many in saying that the prospect of having a “rematch” vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning is very enticing. I say rematch in the sense of an opportunity to makeup for the 2015 loss, even though this squad’s only affiliation to that series is Chris Kreider.
  • That said, going up vs. the two-time defending champions would be quite a test, and one I hope to see come to fruition.
  • Rangers in 7.