Thanks to an odd bit of scheduling, the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins were forced to play back-to-back games in their Eastern Conference semifinals series. However, for the Rangers, there may be less concern with the lack of rest in the past two days and more with the alarming lack of results.
Two games, two losses, no goals. That’s how things went for New York in Games 2 and 3, and their 1-0 series lead has been flipped to a 2-1 deficit. The considerable power outage being suffered by the team has more than a few Rangers fans concerned. However, should the team be feeling the same uneasiness their fan base is going through?
At surface level, the Rangers shouldn’t be reaching for the panic button at all. Yes, they’ve lost two straight, but a win tomorrow and the series is tied 2-2. A one-game hole is hardly something to have an anxiety attack about.
That said, the lack of results New York has seen in the past two games is a big issue that needs to be addressed. The overtime goal scored by Derick Brassard in Game 1 was the last time any Ranger put the puck in the net. Since then, New York has somehow turned Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, he with the resume full of postseason failures, into a brick wall. The Rangers put 57 shots on Fleury in the past two games, and he stopped every single one. It’s the first time New York has been shutout in consecutive playoff games since 1937.
Even worse, the New York power play is dealing with a drought of epic proportions. It’s been eight games since the Rangers man-advantage scored a goal, as the unit is in the middle of an 0-for-34 slump. There’s no way you can win consistently with this kind of power play performance, and New York needs to find more success with this something awful.
It’s not all bad for the Rangers, though. Neither of their last two losses can be pinned on goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who’s performed well in the series. He’s stopped about 93% of shots faced, and though his 13 saves on 15 Pittsburgh shots last night doesn’t look like a good stat line, each Penguins goal was scored on a breakaway.
More importantly, if a team carries the play as much as New York did last night, they’ll win more often than they lose. Coach Alain Vigneault was one of the many Rangers who certainly believe this, saying after the game, “If we play the same way as we did tonight, I’m confident we’ll have a better outcome on Wednesday.”
So no, there’s no significant cause for alarm for New York at the moment. The results of the last two games leave a whole lot to be desired, but again, a win tomorrow night evens everything up. Of course, if these issues persist and the Rangers continue to show an inability to finish, then it might be sweaty palms time in Manhattan.