Despite having a chance to even their first round series with the Washington Capitals tonight in Game 4, the New York Rangers have scored just four goals in the series thus far. Sure, it’s playoff hockey, games are supposed to be low-scoring (just don’t tell that to the Blackhawks, Sharks, Kings, Canucks, Sabres, Flyers….wait, nevermind).
The Rangers third goal on Sunday was dramatic, but Brandon Dubinsky’s late winner was both vintage and fortunate. Vintage in the 2011 Rangers-John Tortorella-let’s play in the corner and cycle-hard working sort of way. Fortunate in that, let’s face it, the puck was heading towards the side boards off of Dubinsky’s stick.
Earlier this season, Tortorella preached a shoot from anywhere approach. but sometimes we don’t see that from the Rangers. Tonight would be the right time for the Rangers to get back to that aggressive tactic. Take Erik Christensen’s power play goal on Sunday, the Rangers’ first tally. That goal was strictly on Neuvirth (and also proved that Christensen does have a good shot if he can get it off). While Neuvirth has played good, the young net-minder hasn’t really been asked to do too much yet. If the Rangers want to even up this series, their best chance is to make Neuvirth a focal point. He can’t simply be a piece of the puzzle. The Rangers need to make that happen, and they can with more pressure in front of the net, and less in the corners and behind the net.
How about it, Marian Gaborik? We’ve all given up on counting the games it’s been since he scored (OK, it’s 12). Imagine if Gaborik woke up? It would open up the ice for others, and suddenly the Rangers wouldn’t look like such an inept offensive team for stretches. An on-form Gaborik and a shaky Neuvirth equals a Rangers Game 4 win, a 2-2- series, and advantage Rangers.
A few goals early in the game would help the Rangers in so many ways. The Caps, who blew last year’s first round series, might start overcompensating and could revert back to their more natural, free flowing style. That style saw the Rangers beat the Caps to the tune of 7-0 and 6-0 in two games this season.
Some early strikes from the Blueshirts could also disprove Bruce Boudreau’s idiotic claim of Madison Square Garden being a quiet building, sparking what will already be a raucous crowd.