This is it Ranger fans! Game 7 for all the marbles. The Rangers either continue their quest for the Stanley Cup or begin cleaning out their lockers. The question here is will the Rangers star players show up in the biggest game of the season, or will they be passengers just along for the ride?
Since game 4 Rick Nash has played some of his best hockey as a New York Ranger. He normally does all the “little things” needed to win but has a tough time scoring. He had the 2 goals in-game 4and has played well offensively since. Driving to the net more and cutting to the middle instead of tip-toeing around the perimeter. The results are starting to show for the much maligned Nash.
The Rangers have their big game players and they’ll need them to show up for Game 7!
Derick Brassard has been the Rangers best playoff performer since he was acquired at the trade deadline in 2013. You know Brassard will come to play whether he scores a goal or impacts the game in some way or another. Like death and taxes, Brassard will play his heart out tonight, guaranteed!
Chris Kreider is like the Rangers personality. The team gets a lift from his unique mix of size, speed, strength, grit, and determination. He always brings his best game in the playoffs and his efforts usually lead to a Rangers win. Kreider impacts games in so many ways that he can open his tool box and choose which is most advantageous on that night.
The Rangers back-end is the best in the NHL if Yandle is on his game.
It’s possible Keith Yandle was dealing with a nagging injury early on in the playoffs. He only had two assists in the first round against the Penguins and two more points against the Capitals. He did get an assist on Derek Stepan‘s series clinching goal in overtime of game 7 in the last round.
Yandle now seems to have a handle on things because he’s now fourth on the Rangers in playoff scoring with 11 points (2G-9A). That means if my math is correct, the offensive defenseman now has 7 points in the 6 games on the Eastern Conference Finals (2G-5A). That’s called getting it done in a big spot and the Rangers need Yandle to help create offense and even add some himself.
Aside from the big name players for the Rangers, the supporting cast have been great in these 2015 playoffs.
Derek Stepan has also stepped up his play as the Rangers got deeper into the playoffs. He is third on the team with 12 points (5G-7A) and has certainly done his job. His line with Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast have been the Rangers most consistently dangerous line in these playoffs.
Jesper Fast is becoming a serious 2-way forward for the Rangers and is always an offensive threat with his speed. He never quits on a puck or play and I would imagine the Tampa Bay players have a picture of him they throw darts at. He’s difficult to play against with how well he plays without the puck.
Finally we have J.T. Miller who has had his moments in the doggie house starting to emerge. From being on the shuttle bus back and forth between Hartford and the Rangers lineup, he had worked his way into a permanent spot in Alain Vigneault’s lineup. He’s now playing top six minutes and has responded well since given the opportunity. He always plays better with better teammates and since the move he has been great. As long as he cuts out the mental lapses from his game, he will be fine in that position.
The quest for the Stanley Cup can continue after tonight or it can be over for the Rangers if they cannot get past the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Before we even think about the Stanley Cup Finals the Rangers have the Tampa Bay Lightning standing in their way. The longer this series went on, the better the Rangers chances were of advancing.
Now that the Rangers have pretty much seen all the Lightning’s tricks and gimmicks, they can no longer try to steal a game from the better Rangers team. Tampa Bay will have to beat the Rangers straight up in one game, a winner take all battle royal at the worlds most famous Arena.
The Rangers have the best big game goaltender in the NHL!
Between the Rangers and the Bolts, the Rangers biggest advantage is in goal with Henrik Lundqvist. As good as Ben Bishop has been in the playoffs, he’s a rookie to the pressure cooker that is game 7. He was touched up for 5 goals in game 6. 5 goals in game 4 and 5 goals in-game 3 loss in overtime. Even if this game turns into a shootout like in game 3, I’ll take my chances with “The King” over “The Bishop” in a crucial elimination game.
Keys to victory in game 7 tonight for the Rangers at MSG!
Steven Stamkos is always a threat and must be checked just as hard. Valtteri Filppula and Alex Killorn have played better as the series has gone along but they won’t beat the Rangers alone. Taking away the Johnson line makes the Bolts a one line team and the Rangers superior depth will take this game over. As long as the Blueshirts stay out of the penalty box as much as possible they should have a great chance. Scoring on their Power Play chances given to them will help tremendously.
There’s nothing like a timely power play goal to change momentum in a game but that is a two-way street the Rangers would like to be on the right side of. Keep the Lightning to the outside and clear Henrik Lundqvist’s line of sight to the shooter or puck carrier.
If the Rangers get a two goal lead or better they have to continue to forecheck. AV likes to go into a different form of his 1-2-2 forecheck called the Left-Wing Lock. It’s a 1-1-3 designed to keep the opposition from getting in behind the defense for a quick strike. It only works as a neutral zone trap if the lead forechecker is in the oppositions zone forcing the play. You can’t give their defenseman time to look over the neutral zone coverage. Any defenseman in the NHL can make a good first pass with time and space.
If you lay back at the red-line on the Lightning they’ll gain speed untouched through center ice and we will have another game six against the Capitals. The Rangers almost blew their season with a 4-1 lead halfway through the third period.
They can’t let that happen tonight, with their season and Stanley Cup dreams on the line. No passengers for this ride! All hands on deck and full steam ahead. Let’s Go RANGERS!