Rangers must step up to new challenges in Devils series

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers did not play poorly in their Game 3 loss to the New Jersey Devils, but failed to respond to several new challenges.

As the series still remains in their advantage at 2-1 heading into Monday’s pivotal Game 4, the Blueshirts need to solve not only goalie Akira Schmid but the Devils aggressive penalty kill.

“Obviously we knew this was going to be a challenge,” Jacob Trouba said afterwards. “It’s never easy winning four games. It’s a long series… We’ll come back and play Game 4.”

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New York Rangers face new challenges

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First and foremost, the Rangers will need to find ways to get more traffic and secondary chances on Schmid. The 22 year-old netminder was very sharp and extremely economic in his movements. Even more impressive was his poise after giving up the first goal of the game in the second period which allowed the Devils to comeback and win it in overtime.

“I don’t think we did a good job of getting to the inside as we have the last few games,” Chris Kreider said after scoring his fifth playoff goal of the series. “As the game went on, we got better but the goalie was still seeing the puck.”

At 6-5′, Schmid naturally covers plenty of the net. Factor in his excellent positioning and he’s going to stop more shots if he can see them. With that in mind, the Rangers will need to shoot for tips and rebounds to make his night a lot tougher than it was for a majority of the game Saturday night.

That being said, the Rangers did themselves no favors by going 0-5 on the power play.

The first unit took up a majority of the 10 minutes on the man advantage and got away from everything that made them successful in the first two games. Instead of finding lanes for tips, the Rangers were too fancy making east-to-west passes trying to get Schmid moving.

Furthermore, the Devils did not sit back as much this time around. Realizing they needed to be aggressive, they often eliminated time for the Rangers superstars to make plays and were able to win more 50/50 puck battles to clear the zone.

“Thinking we can score on every power play is unrealistic,” Mika Zibanejad explained. “I think we can do a better job of creating more momentum. We came a little bit too slow. The first two games we were getting more pucks to the net and we just have go back and do that.”

The Rangers now face their first big test of these playoffs. Did they learn anything about needing to close out their opponents as soon as possible after last year’s long playoff run?

That may be the biggest of the new challenges this team faces. A loss in Game 4 returns home ice advantage to the Devils and will make advancing a whole lot harder.

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