The Fault in Our Stars
What is happening? After an incredible and historic 3-1 series comeback against the Washington Capitals, the Rangers have fallen extremely flat defensively against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Even Henrik Lundqvist has looked vulnerable in the last two games as the Rangers are down 2-1 in this ECF best of seven. While it is hard to blame Lundqvist for a majority of the 12 goals in his last 2 games, there have been a few mistakes by the him that normally don’t happen.
The opening goal by Steven Stamkos off a rebound he normally eats up and the OT winner by Nikita Kucherov from 25′ out are totally uncharacteristic. Still, he’s human and when your defense leaves you out to dry time and time again, your confidence can waver.
Last night, Lundqvist was slumped in his dressing stall and had to be consoled by Glen Sather. You know when your GM is coming down to the dressing room after game 3 in a series it can’t be good.
[su_quote cite=”NHL.com” url=”http://www.nhl.com/ice/blogpost.htm?id=39870&navid=nhl:topheads”]”I feel like I need to be more consistent with the way I make decisions with my D, and challenging the shooter,” Lundqvist said. “But, again, when shooters get more time in the slot, as a goalie, the toughest part is sometimes to be patient. You have to improve and do whatever I can to improve.”[/su_quote]
Lundqvist is now sporting a miserable .840 SV% and a GAA near 5 against the Lightning this season (regular season and playoffs combined). What’s worse is what the Triplet line is doing to the Rangers defense, which continues to get embarrassed by the young trio.
Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov are killing the Rangers by criss-crossing every time they enter the offensive zone. Their speed and hockey smarts are causing the Rangers defense fits. It seems like one of them has an open shot every shift. They have accounted for 7 of the 12 goals scored in the last two games, so the Rangers need to figure how to slow them down if they hope to win this series.
Of all the Rangers defenseman in the last two games, only Keith Yandle has a + rating with 2. Marc Staal is a -4 and his stellar work on Steven Stamkos in game 1 looks like a distant memory. The Rangers defense needs to wake up and snap out of it. They could also use better coverage and support by their forwards too.
[su_quote cite=”NHL.com” url=”http://www.nhl.com/gamecenter/en/recap?id=2014030313&navid=nhl:topheads”]”I don’t think we can look at it as, ‘Let’s play run and gun,'” Stepan said. “We haven’t played that way all year. Our system is we stick to our structure. I think Game 2 they score six goals, they score five special-team goals. Game 3 tonight, it was just the way it game went. It was just one of those nights. Both teams had some space to create some opportunities and both teams scored a lot of goals.”[/su_quote]
This falls a lot on Alain Vigneault who has asked his defense to be overly aggressive in the offensive zone. He needs to rethink his strategy against the Lightning who appear to be too fast for the Rangers to handle. It’s time to scale it back and think defense first the rest of the way.
Now to the two biggest stars that are faltering mightily, Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash. Please don’t tell me MSL is too old or how great Nash has been at doing all the little things. AV has quietly called them both out asking his best players to be just that.
MSL has two points in this series, which is 2 more than Nash who has 0. This is the ECF and the Rangers have gotten this far off of 2 goals in 15 playoff games from their 2 star forwards. How sustainable is winning if those guys aren’t scoring? It’s not so don’t try and overthink it.
From here on out these two guys need to get goals, not just chances. MSL needs to stop trying to hit corners and just hit the net. He was credited with zero shots on goal yesterday because he missed the net on every attempt. Nash on the other hand is getting shots, 8 to be exact, but aside for a breakaway in game 1, he is taking countless shots from about 15′ out with no screens on a squared Ben Bishop.
Keith Jones of NBC said after Monday’s loss that Nash “shrinks” in the playoffs, I didn’t want to believe it. Last night, Jeremy Roenick broke down every complaint I made on Twitter while watching him play. He simply continues to peel off and take shots that are too easy to stop.
Tell me why Nash stops skating and decides to shoot? Not scoring from here! Maybe you draw a penalty? pic.twitter.com/owDFqueiAC
— FullTilt Rangers (@NYR_FullTilt) May 21, 2015
It is high time that our two leading goal scorers act like our two leading goal scorers. For those that state the issue was defense last night, had both of them cashed in just once the Rangers win it 7-6.
The Rangers have issues, but most of them are correctable. Alain Vigneault will make the adjustments needed on defense to try and slow down the Lightning, even if it is at the expense of some offense. That still requires vintage Lundqvist and our defense to step up.
Finally, we need goals from our best players. The offensive support from players like Jesper Fast and Carl Hagelin should mean winning games by 2 or 3 goals. Our problem is, they are carrying the offensive load because Nash and MSL can’t score. It’s time for them to pick up the ball and carry it home.
If these things don’t happen, then the fault in our stars will be our undoing.