Desperate times call for desperate measures and we have come to a perilous period for the Rangers.
How desperate? Try being down in the opening round with Pittsburgh three games to one after a 5-0 Game 4 loss Thursday at The Garden.
Uh-oh, next game in Pitt.
So perilous is the Rangers’ situation that the inconceivable could become conceivable. Could Henrik Lundqvist be replaced as the starting goaltender by backup Antti Raanta for Saturday’s Game 5 in Pittsburgh?
Of course not.
Unlikely as such a change would be, in the end, a goalie decision will depend on the high command headed by Alain Vigneault. I polled three press box regulars and all said that AV would have to go back with Lundqvist.
I agree, it has to be Henny.
This much is certain: Before getting pulled Thursday night at the Garden, King Henrik had given up four goals and – in the opinion of MSG Networks analysts – was not up to his impeccable standard.
“He didn’t look comfortable or sharp,” says MSG Networks Joe Micheletti.
Replacing Henny, in the second period, Raanta appeared competent – in fact flawless – into the final frame.
“I need to be better,” explains Lundqvist. “Our mindset in Pittsburgh is that we have to win that game. I have to feel confidence. We have to come together. We have no other choice.”
AV has more than goaltending issues on his drawing board. There’s a matter of goal-scoring.
Granted that the likes of Eric Staal and Rick Nash had their “chances” against cool, calm, collected Pitt back-up 21-year-old Matt Murray. But “chances” and goals are as different as pastrami and eggs.
All the Rangers wound up with was a goose egg and, furthermore, Lundqvist allowed four goals on only 18 shots by the Visitors.
Which inspires the question: Is this series reversible? After all, the Rangers have a recent history of playoff comebacks against Pittsburgh.
“However,” points out Micheletti, “this is a different Penguins team – a better one.”
What to do?
“The Rangers,” adds MSG Networks play-by-play ace Sam Rosen, “never got anything going.”
For starters, New York simply cannot get behind the eight ball as fast as it did in Game 4. Before every fan had settled into his and her seat, the Blueshirts were down by one and in two-shakes-of-a-lamb’s-tail it was two-zip and then three-zip.
Now for the good news and the possibility of bringing the series back to Seventh Avenue on Monday.
1. Brady Skjei is so good on defense that the rookie out of Minnesota is virtually granted a Top-4 slot next season, maybe even Top-2. He could be positively decisive in Game 5.
2. Ryan McDonagh was able to take a regular turn, despite the fact that the captain still is far from being in mint condition. He should be even better on Saturday.
3. Comebacks happen all the time and the Rangers have enjoyed some classics.
4. The Law of Averages indicates that the Blueshirts should have a goal bust-out sooner rather than later. (The operative word is “should”).
5. Lundqvist’s DNA reveals a history of bounce-back games.
“Our group was out of character,” concludes AV. “We picked a very bad night to have a very bad game. We haven’t found our trigger-points yet.”
They had better find it on Saturday – or else!