NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Henrik Lundqvist #30 and Ryan McDonagh #27 of the New York Rangers react as the Ottawa Senators celebrate after Jason Spezza #19 scored a goal in the first period of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 21, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
The New York Rangers are down to their last life. The Eastern Conference's best team in the regular season is staring first-round elimination in the face. Monday night (7 p.m. EST, NBCSN/MSG), the eighth-seeded Ottawa Senators could knock them out in Game 6, meaning the East's No. 1 seed and the Western Conference's best, Vancouver Canucks, could both be hitting the golf courses.
New York has dropped its last two games, the first in overtime and the latest 2-0. There is no bigger problem than goal scoring, as the squad has put up three goals in the last three games. Forty-one shots on goal didn't even do the job Saturday, a game the Rangers played very well in, but often didn't make Ottawa netminder Craig Anderson's job very difficult with traffic in front or high-end, close-range chances.
To make matters worse, Brian Boyle, who scored three goals and been the team's best forward on both ends of the ice, was concussed by a Chris Neil hit, is likely out indefinitely. The playoffs are proving that even the best regular-season teams are not guaranteed anything, as unfair as it may seem.
But ... this is a team that went 51-24-7 in the regular season for a reason. It has dealt with adversity throughout the whole season, and has proven through a large sample of games that it has to takes to put together at least a two-game winning streak. Even more encouraging is that Carl Hagelin, after a three-game suspension, will return, re-energizing the forward core. Plus, coach John Tortorella has also alluded to giving Boston College star/Rangers rookie more playing time. That bodes well for the offense -- no matter how inexperienced Kreider is -- because his (untapped at the NHL level) ability is real. And the Rangers need scoring.
If they can play the way they did in Game 5 (the last goal was an empty-netter), make Anderson's job a little tougher and get a little lucky along the way, the Blueshirts could live to see another day.