Game 2 of the Ranger-Senators Eastern Conference semifinals is all set for this afternoon with Ottawa holding a one-game advantage in the best of seven series.
While many may opine that opening game turned on a “fluke” goal by Erik Karlsson I would offer up the creativity and imagination of Karlsson being an important consideration, as this was the third goal of this type scored by the Senator captain on the season. Great players put themselves into a position of allowing luck, fluke or whatever to play a role. Karlsson is a great player.
One final thought on the game winner. Little things do lead to big things. Fifteen seconds prior to Karlsson’s game-winner Senator defenseman Marc Methot outreached Rick Nash by inches at the blueline to keep the puck in the Rangers end of the ice. Had the puck advanced, who knows how this one would have turned out. But the puck wasn’t advanced. The margin for error is that thin come playoff time.
The Rangers need to pay a little more respect to the speed and skill of Ottawa. While much was made prior the opening game of the series and after Game 1 of the speed bumps created by their style in the neutral zone, not enough credit has been given to Ottawa’s “O” makeup. The Senators have a number of players who can make a play, and we saw what a difference that made for the Rangers in their opening round against Montreal. I would not get drawn into the rhetoric that this is a one-dimensional opponent. They aren’t.
[Rangers-Senators Post Game Coverage on MSG Networks]
3 KEYS TO GAME 2
1. Defensive Zone
The Rangers need to be quicker to the puck and smarter with the puck in their own end of the ice. Getting to a better position to make a play with the puck faster than the opponent allows you a better chance of heading up ice with better numbers.
2. Neutral Zone
While I didn’t think that area was as big a factor as some, Ottawa still hits the reset button for their game in the neutral zone when all else fails. The Blueshirts need speed and support in this area to continue to move up ice. Trying to beat this opponent one-on-one and with long distance passes won’t work.
Penalties always play a role one way or another. Not-so-smart infractions will end up costing you. A lazy slash, too-many-men on the ice, and a penalty while on the power play, all in the first period of Game 1 were clear examples of unnecessary penalties. The Rangers need to be smarter when it comes to taking a penalty.
Don La Greca, Sam Rosen, John Giannone and I will have the call this afternoon on ESPN 98.7 FM. Pregame at 2:30. Puck drops a little past 3. MSG Network will have complete post game coverage.
Check it out!