These three New York Rangers need to step up in Game 5

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning
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The New York Rangers were once up 2-0 in this first-round series against the rival New Jersey Devils. A comfortable lead that changed after losing two straight at The Garden and giving back home ice advantage.

In the first two games, won by identical 5-1 scores, the Blueshirts were the faster team willing to make simple plays to generate offense. The Devils made a change in Game 3 by going with 22 year-old rookie goalie Akira Schmid. It’s paid off so far as he’s done a better job of stopping the first shot and playing the puck for his defense.

When you look at the Rangers, three players stand out as needing to elevate their games if this team hopes to advance. Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Filip Chytil must break out of their slumps and drive the offense for their respective lines.

Three key New York Rangers for Game 5

new york rangers
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Artemi Panarin

Coming into the postseason, Panarin was looking primed and ready for a nice offensive run after registering 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists) in the team’s final 6 regular-season matches. He even opened Game 1 with a strong two assist performance but he’s laid three goose eggs since.

Panarin missed on two glorious chances that went wide trying to be too fine with his shot in Game 3. The team leader in regular-season scoring (92 points) was a non-factor in Game 4. The Devils’ defense relegated him to long passes from the wall that were easily picked off or disrupted.

Of the three Rangers that must step up, the 31 year-old winger needs to return to being the team’s best player not wearing goalie pads. He can only do this by getting off the walls and into traffic more than he has to date in this series.

Mika Zibanejad

The Rangers number one center has been good overall, and a standout defensively. That’s great, but having just two assists after four playoff games isn’t going to cut it.

Zibanejad led the team during the regular-season with 251 shots on goal leading to a career-high 91 points in 82 games. For me, that’s the biggest issue I can see with his play in the postseason.

The 30 year-old has one of the best shots in the league but has only put 8 of them on net tying him with Adam Fox for 6th on the team. It’s time for Mika to be more selfish with the push and letting it rip more often.

Filip Chytil

Overall, the Kid Line has been very good when it comes to puck possession and generating momentum with strong down low play.

That being said, the Rangers desperately need Chytil to get back to playing in the middle of the ice. The 23 year-old is a big strong center at 6-2′ and 204 lbs but has been keeping to the outside a lot more in these last two losses.

In the first two games of this series, Chytil picked up three points (1 goal, 2 assists) by being aggressive and creating offense closer to the net. However, in both games on home ice he’s been playing on the perimeter and taking low percentage shots from the boards that simply allow Schmid to get comfortable.

Meanwhile, both of his wingers (Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko) are going into the high traffic areas consistently. If Chytil joins them, they can create enough chaos to unsettle the young goalie and maybe get a goal or two.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore