Apr 18, 2012; Ottawa, ON, CAN; New York Rangers centre Brian Boyle (22) during warmup prior to game three of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-US PRESSWIRE
The New York Rangers may have been a great team during the regular season when grabbing an early lead -- even more so with two-goal advantage, for that matter -- but they learned a hard lesson in Game 4 of their first-round series with the Ottawa Senators: that no lead is safe in the playoffs. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead only to see that wither away and lose 3-2 in overtime.
Even though the Rangers haven't played their best hockey, by no means have they played their most desperate either in these playoffs. The result is a series that's tied at two games apiece, with Game 5 on Saturday night (7:00 p.m., NBCSN/MSG) a must-win for both sides. New York loses Game 5 and it heads to a hostile road environment looking to stay alive. Win, and the pressure sits with Ottawa in Game 6.
It's quite clear what the Rangers are lacking. The power play scored on its first two opportunities, then went 0-for-5 the rest of the way. It showed life, but then it stalled at some key moments, especially twice in the third period with the game tied 2-2. More specifically, New York needs a more varied goal-scoring output. Brian Boyle has three goals, and he's been the best forward in the series; Anton Stralman and Ryan Callahan have played well, too, with two goals apiece.
But, the Rangers have to free Marian Gaborik, a 41-goal scorer during the regular season, for more attempts , as he has just seven shots on goal the entire series. Brad Richards hasn't exactly been lights-out, either, despite three points (one goal). What they need mostly are contributions from Derek Stepan, who has struggled for his career in the postseason, going scoreless in nine games with just 11 shots on goal. Though he has three assists, Artem Anisimov has just two shots on goal as well. It's pretty clear that the forwards are not getting the puck enough, and when they do, they aren't holding it long enough in the offensive zone to create attempts.
The Rangers need to get back to their defense-first style that then generates offense from getting pucks low and cycling. They've been successful with it all year and have kind of gotten away from it in these playoffs. If New York simply wins more puck battles, it will be more succesfull.