For the New York Rangers, their defense was supposed to be a huge advantage in their series against the Philadelphia Flyers. They were supposed to be deeper, faster and smarter. But after a Game 2 debacle, the Rangers’ defensemen looked lost at points in the game. The poster boy for that confusion was Anton Stralman.
Stralman has developed into a steady top four defenseman over the past three years for the Rangers. He rarely gets beat and moves the puck quickly. But in Game 2, Stralman looked like he hadn’t played the game in weeks. It was like the Flyers paid him before the game to give them the puck.
Stralman has to come out of the lineup. In a seven-game series you can’t wait for a player to find his groove. If he struggles — and Stralman struggled mightily — the Rangers have a luxury that most other teams don’t have with defensive depth. They have Raphael Diaz and Justin Falk lurking in the shadows to take Stralman’s spot in the lineup.
For head coach Alain Vigneault, Diaz makes more sense to be inserted into the lineup. Falk has only played one game since late December and isn’t ready for playoff hockey right now. Diaz can do a a few things well; he moves the puck well, plays on the power play and is smart with the puck — things Stralman has not done recently.
Vigneault is a smart coach, and at his press conference on Monday he said that he is mulling changes to the lineup for Game 3. The Rangers can’t afford to have a liability on their back end, especially with the Flyers having the last change tomorrow night. Stralman has to come out, and he has to come out now.