When it gets to playoff time in any sport, every team has players that are banged up or injured in one way or another. That’s especially true in the physically grueling NHL where teams pride themselves on the “black-and-blue” mentality.
The New York Rangers in particular have instilled that mentality, as they have been at the top of the league in hits and blocked shots for the past two years. It was a key part of how they were at the top of the Eastern Conference a season ago and why they are in the second round of the postseason now. However, the laundry list of injuries the Rangers have currently accumulated could possibly seal their downfall as they head into Game 4 against the Boston Bruins trailing 3-0.
All-star defenseman Marc Staal has played only one game (Game 3 of the Rangers’ first round series against the Washington Capitals) since March 5 after taking a slap shot to the eye. The Rangers have really missed his ability to steadily move the puck out of the defensive zone, mark a team’s best offensive player, and join the rush in the offensive zone. In only 21 games played this season, Staal was very productive, scoring two goals to go along with nine assists.
Defenseman Anton Stralman took a monster hit from Bruins forward Milan Lucic in the second period and did not play in the third period as a result. Stralman has really stepped up as a steady player on the back end with Staal out for the majority of the postseason, and his absence made a huge difference as to why the Rangers coughed up a 1-0 lead in the third period on their way to a crushing 2-1 loss in Game 3. He did not practice today and is questionable for the pivotal Game 4 as a result. If he can’t go, Roman Hamirlik or Matt Gilroy, each of whom has been a healthy scratch for almost a month, will attempt to fill the void. Speedy forwards Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin are also questionable for Game 4 after both took sticks to the faces in the third period of Game 3.
Ryane Clowe, a trade deadline acquisition who added the physical element the Rangers were severely lacking in the first half of the regular season, practiced but still is doubtful after suffering an apparent concussion in Game 5 of the Capitals series.
All these injuries are compounded by the fact that the Rangers still have not scored on the power play during the series and have had a hard time containing the Bruins’ relentless forecheck.
The Rangers are 0-10 all-time in playoff series when trailing 3-0, and a depleted defense and depleted forward depth will not help them in their attempt to rewrite history.