Rangers: There’s No Time Like the Present, For A Win

Steve Valiquette, Ron Duguay and Al Trautwig preview Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final and talk about how Henrik Lundqvist will respond after the Blueshirts' Game 3 loss to the Lightning.

What’s the fuss all about? The Rangers only trail Tampa Bay by one game.

One game.

There should not be any panic in Rangerville.

Coming from behind is as natural to the Blueshirts as exhaling and that’s what the New Yorkers should do after a win tonight in Tampa Bay.

A win? After successively allowing six goals each, in the past two games?

No problem; not to worry. Here’s the how and why of it straight from the mouth of the most important Ranger, captain Ryan McDonagh, among others:

  • HOW THE LIGHTNING BEAT NEW YORK IN GAME 3: “Tampa did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone against us. We didn’t put enough pucks behind them and make them defend as much. We didn’t wear them down like we did in Game 1.
  • SOLUTION FOR GAME 4: “Make them go the whole length of the ice; try to wear down their defensemen and forwards by making them defend.”
  • AVOIDING PANIC: “It’s still 2-1 in the series and we understand the importance of this [Friday night] game being on the road. We understand that there’s no use getting upset anymore over what happened in the last game.”
  • SOLUTION: “We’ve got to trust our instincts and our structure. We’ve been in this situation before. We can still improve and continue to get back to having good numbers. We now have an opportunity to even this series going back to The Garden.”
  • NEGATING THE BOLTS’ SPEED: “They rely on high-octane, high, fast-paced plays, taking what you give them.”
  • SOLUTION: “We’ve got to try to minimize those offensive looks for them; try and minimize that extra play that they’ve been making against us.”

All of which sounds good, but you and I know that McDonagh will not give you a specific game plan. For that I turn to my Vice-President In Charge of Scientific Hockey, Gus Vic. He reports on three specific strategies.

1. STOPPING THE TERRIFIC TRIPLETS — ONDREJ PALAT, TYLER JOHNSON AND NIKITA KUCHEROV

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KEY TO STOPPING THEM: “The Triplets are getting way too much respect. Rangers forwards have been soft in their back check gap coverage. That causes the defense to back in and give too much blue line. Backcheck harder and better. Give the defense more chance to own the blue line.”

2. DETROIT ALMOST BEAT THEM, WHY NOT THE RANGERS? 

KEY TO WINNING IN THE RED WINGS’ MANNER: “The Red Wings spent the better part of their opening-round series with Tampa pushing the attack to the outside. Have Dominic Moore, Jesper Fast and Carl Hagelin shadow The Triplets.”

3. THE MAJOR TRIPLETS WEAKNESS TO EXPLOIT:

KEY TO THE SECRET WEAPON AGAINST TYLER JOHNSON AND FRIENDS: “The Triplets have as much trouble in their own end as any of the other lines. They are weak under pressure. Keep them in their own end and shorten their attack time.”

And, finally, a simplified “How The Rangers Can Win” A, B and C.

A. A MUCH-BETTER KING HENRIK: Lundqvist should be able to lift his game by three notches. Period!

B. RICK NASH MUST EXPLODE NOT SPUTTER: More crashing the net and less shooting from the perimeter would be a good idea for The Big N.

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C. EXTRA ICE TIME FOR CHRIS KREIDER, JESPER FAST AND DEREK STEPAN. Alain Vigneault must strike while those worthies are hot.

Stepan has the best punch line of all:

“We have to stay confident.”