NHL Playoffs 2012: Will the Rangers' Game 5 be Their Most Important Game Since the Lockout?

By Tom Urtz Jr

It sounds extreme but there is a lot at stake for the New York Rangers in Game 5 and it could be their most important game since the lockout. In addition to Game 5’s impact on the current Rangers and Ottawa Senators first round quarterfinal series, Game 5 could be make or break for the Rangers. The Rangers finished the regular season with the Eastern Conference’s best record but a first round bounce from the playoffs would be horrendous.

Everything the Rangers have worked for along the way to becoming a playoff contender would be all for naught so Game 5 is a must win. The Rangers have held control for most of the series despite the 2-2 tie. Ottawa has never led in the series as their two wins were a product of overtime winners by Chris Neil and Kyle Turris. The Rangers were dominant at Madison Square Garden all year long and that is part of the reason why they have home ice advantage up until the Stanley Cup Final. If and when Vancouver is eliminated, the Rangers would regain control of total home ice.

The Rangers need to come out hard on Saturday and they need to out grind and work the Senators. The Rangers have remained consistent on the power play which has been a staple of their team all year.

The Rangers are led by Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Ruslan Fedotenko, Brandon Prust and Carl Hagelin serving on the team’s top-two units. The suspension to Carl Hagelin has really hurt the Rangers so a win in Game 5 would really help.

These players are great at blocking shots, sacrificing the body and doing everything they possibly can to clear the puck. These same players need to step up physically against the Senators in Game 5. It seems that the Senators have out muscled the Rangers along the boards and on every loose puck. This can’t continue in Game 5. The Rangers also need to find a way to neutralize Erik Karlsson. His ability to carry the puck un-contested up the ice has burned the Rangers.

Karlsson will set up shop and can continue to cycle the offense while the Rangers are worn out and caught flat footed. If the Rangers can shut down Karlsson, they can shut down the Senators offense.

On the opposite side the Rangers need to establish offensive pressure in their own zone with multiple shots on goal.It is becoming a trend for the Rangers to continually pass the puck around until the “perfect” shot presents itself. This opportunity never comes and then the Rangers are caught back going on the defensive.

In order to win Game 5, the Rangers need to show a killer instinct and keep their foot on the gas for a full 60:00. It doesn’t matter if the score is 2-0, 3-0, or 4-0, no matter the score, the Rangers need to keep pushing until the final horn sounds. The Rangers have allowed the Senators to come back from behind three times this year so with the future of the series hanging in the balance, the Rangers’ Game 5 at Madison Square Garden could be the most important game since the lockout.

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