Rangers need to make this key adjustment to beat Panthers in Game 5

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have been overwhelmed in their own zone for much of this Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers. That was very apparent in Game’s 3 and 4 in Florida, where shot attempts were extremely lopsided 199 to 84 in favor of the Panthers according to Stathletes. Additionally, the shot attempts off the cycle in the Rangers’ d-zone accounts for an astounding 152 of them.

Time after time, the Panthers dump the puck into the Rangers end of the ice and then cause havoc for long stretches. Florida is continuously beating New York to pucks, and winning a large majority of 50/50 battles. Furthermore, even when the Rangers appear to have a moment to clear the zone or make a play up ice, they tend to make a bad pass to either ice the puck or turn it over.

So, what adjustment can the Rangers make to stop the Florida surge in their own zone? One former Ranger turned analyst has the answer, and that’s to stop playing man on man coverage.

Related: Rangers need stars to awaken in Game 5

Brian Boyle wants Rangers to stop playing man on man

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-New York Rangers at Los Angeles Kings
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

“You can survive a few shifts, a period, but it’s very taxing to defend for as long as they have to defend, and the way they’re defending,” said Brian Boyle during MSG Network’s postgame coverage of Game 4.

“There was too much man on man allowing penetration in through the dots in front of Igor Shesterkin’s net. They can’t dictate play when they have that many shifts in their own end. They don’t have the energy to put Florida on their heels, and it was evident throughout (the game).”

Boyle, 39, who played on Broadway for five seasons, and was on the last Rangers’ squad to make it to the Stanley Cup Final (2014), ultimately losing to the Los Angeles Kings in five games. He certainly knows what he’s talking about, since his role during that time was as a bottom-six forward, shutting down the opposition’s top line and disrupting zone breakouts with aggressive forechecking.

“This is a disaster,” Boyle added on the Up In The Blue Seats podcast. “You can’t play man on man and have success in the NHL, because the players are too good. And you certainly can’t do it in the Eastern Conference Final against the other best team in the Eastern Conference. The Carolina Hurricanes have been doing it for six years, and for six years they’ve fallen short.”

All this being said, the good news is another former Blueshirt turned analyst, Steve Valiquette, believes that should be an easy thing to clean up ahead of Thursday’s crucial Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.

“We’re spending too much time playing defense,” coach Peter Laviolette said Tuesday. “We’re not able to move and generate the way we want to out there. They come at you hard. They dump a lot of pucks, they forecheck hard, so you don’t spend a lot of time in the offensive zone… That’s something we’ve done a better job with at home of controlling the play.”

One thing is for sure, the Rangers better do something different in how they defend Florida’s aggressive forecheck, or they could be facing elimination on Saturday.

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

Mentioned in this article:

More About: