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Handy Dandy Playoff Notebook: Blueshirts Bounce Back With Game 2 Win

  • Game 1 of the playoffs covered the full spectrum of emotions for Rangers fans, and there certainly was a strong feeling off, “is it time for Game 2 yet?” on Twitter.
  • Part of this could be the anxiety of waiting for more playoff hockey, the desire to shake off what happened in Game 1, a little bit of both, or something entirely different.
  • The New York Rangers won Game 2 by a score of 5-2, and the series is tied 1-1 ahead of a shift to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday.
  • New York played much better in totality in Game 2 than they did in Game 1, but still came out “lucky.” They finished with a 37.8% rating on MoneyPuck’s Deserve to Win O’Meter, and that’s a product of Pittsburgh winning the expected goals battle 4.34 to 3.19 in all situations, and 2.97 to 1.59 at 5v5.
  • During Game 1’s loss, the Rangers had a 10.1% rating, lost the expected goals battle 7.58 to 3.75 in all situations, and 6.63 to 3.43 at 5v5.
  • Igor Shesterkin once again was a difference maker, and made multiple key saves particularly in the third period while the game was 3-2, and he was able to buy the Rangers time before they scored some insurance goals.
Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers - Game Two Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  • This time he only had to make 39 saves, but it was once again another busy night which could have went differently with a few bounces.
  • Does this matter? Yes and no. Goaltending is a strength of the Rangers, and they won many of their games this year getting bailed out by their netminder while losing the advanced stats battle. Right now Igor is playing with a ton of confidence and swagger, and looks like he is locked in to make a major run.
  • Post deadline the Rangers relied on goaltending less than they did earlier in the season and had better 5v5 play, but so far in this series a depleted Penguins team has controlled the majority of play.
  • As for the part where it matters, it is obvious if the Rangers want to go on a long run, they will have higher odds of success by playing better at 5v5, because that can lead to shorter series with more decisive victories and less stress overall on Igor.
  • The overall underlying numbers, small sample, are pretty ugly right now. It’s a little surprising considering how depleted the Penguins are, and at some point the tide could change as fatigue sets in given the overreliance on the Sidney Crosby line.
  • That said, the Rangers had a decent response after losing in heartbreaking fashion in Game 1, and when you look at the scoresheet things seemingly all came together in the way you’d like them to.
Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers - Game Two Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  • Andrew Copp scores the first goal of the game, his second of the playoffs. Artemiy Panarin, who looked off in Game 1, picked up the primary assist and Justin Braun grabbed a secondary helper.
  • Ryan Strome finally hit the net!, on a deflection, to get his first goal of the playoffs. Panarin got another assist, and Adam Fox picked up his first.
  • Chris Kreider tallied his second goal, on another deflection for the Rangers, after Frank Vatrano put a shot on net.
  • Panarin made a smart play to bank the puck of Mike Matheson from behind the goal, and in the process picked up his third point of the evening. K’Andre Miller picked up his second assist, and it was nice to see him getting involved in the offense.
  • Miller’s growth this season has been tremendous, and he certainly looks like a player built for the playoffs. He’s embraced the opportunity given to him, played with confidence, and had some standout moments early on.
  • Vatrano scored the Rangers’ final goal of the game to make it 5-2 and it was a straight snipe.
  • All in all, the deadline acquisitions combined for two goals and three assists in Game 2, which is something that needs to continue going forward.
  • On the “something to keep an eye on” front, Mika Zibanejad is due for a goal. He was robbed early on in Game 2, particularly because Louis Domingue catches with his right hand.
  • There also was a rare muffed shot on one-timer attempt from one of the circles which otherwise would have resulted in a goal. He has 8 shots on goal in two games, and two assists, and I think the Rangers are going to try and keep feeding him until he gets one so that he can get in a groove.
  • They didn’t have any points in Game 2, but the kids line of Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko had some impressive cycling moments which helped generate pressure in the Penguins zone. Kakko has looked particularly strong along the boards moving his feet, and the Penguins have bounced off him for the most part. Chytil is putting himself in areas to shoot, and Lafrenière continues to take the body whenever he can.
  • But there were also some moments where they focused a bit too much on making the big hit, and Igor stepped up and took care of business. It is important for them to find a balance, and in time they will.
  • On the road it will be interesting to see what happens with Pittsburgh getting last change. It is possible that Mike Sullivan will try and take advantage of the line’s inexperience.
  • Ryan Lindgren and Barclay Goodrow didn’t play in Game 2, and Lindgren remains day-to-day whereas Goodrow is week-to-week.
  • Lastly, I think these two tweets perfectly sum up my thoughts on the collision at the end of the game between Jeff Carter and Igor Shesterkin
  • Seriously though... it was a 5-2 game with almost no time left. Shesterkin is in the trapezoid, the only place behind net the goalie can go without being assessed a penalty to play the puck.
  • That area of the ice is his space, and generally treated as an unofficial extension of the blue paint of the goal crease. Why is the onus on him to divert from his path here?
  • Why should he have to try to squeeze between Carter and the space between the goal post like a server navigating the dining room delivering a couple rounds of appetizers and drinks at Chili’s?
  • And for the “he stuck his leg out” people... just shut up. Do you really think the Rangers’ most important player intentionally put himself in a situation where he could potentially get injured, and removed from the series?
  • If you do think that, take a lap and give your head a shake. And again, I would refer you to this...
  • All of that said, Game 3 is where the Rangers need to make their next push and take a game just like Pittsburgh did in Game 1. Doing so would shift the pressure to the Penguins for Game 4, because they’d be in a must win scenario to avoid a potential elimination Game 5 at MSG.
  • Admittedly that’s looking too far ahead, but Game 3 needs to be a decisive one for the Rangers. They made improvements from Game 1 in Game 2, and there needs to be more of that in Game 3.