Expect Hank, Rangers to Rebound in Game 3

After a review of Game 2, I am still convinced that not even the truest Senators fan could admit that they saw the 6-5 2OT victory coming and yet it did.

Leading 5-3 and out-shooting the Senators 7-2 well into the third period, the Blueshirts were then guilty of “playing to protect” as opposed to “playing to win.” A couple of needless icings, a lost board battle and another broken stick in the defensive zone with the opponent’s net empty saw the game head to overtime. An offensive zone pinch without support in the second extra session and it’s back to Broadway with the locals down 2-0 in the series.

[Rangers-Senators Post Game Coverage on MSG Networks]

So the Rangers will regroup after an extra day off and attempt to get that important first win in the series. Henrik Lundqvist, the Blueshirts most crucial component, likely benefits the most from the extra rest. After an all-world performance in Game 1, The King was somewhat more pedestrian in Game 2. When he’s on top of his game, Henrik moves in a balanced, competitive manner absorbing the first shot. His greatness has an awful lot to do with his ability to put games behind him and focus on the task at hand. One should expect that tonight.

In an interesting, and a somewhat out of character move, Alain Vigneault opted to shorten his bench in Game 2. While lots of little things are best left for debate when everything is all said and done, a key ingredient to the Rangers recent success has always been an “all hands on deck” mentality. The players have the responsibility of earning their ice time, and the coach has the responsibility to push the right buttons. But make no mistake, the Rangers have been and need to be a sum of all of their parts.

Alain Vigneault is focused on making slight adjustments and sticking to the game plan when the Rangers battle the Ottawa Senators in Game 3 tonight at Madison Square Garden.

3 KEYS TO GAME 3

1. Five-Man Unit

The Rangers spent a large part of practice yesterday exiting the defensive zone and attacking the neutral zone as a unit of five. While the fluidity of hockey doesn’t necessarily guarantee what will work play-to-play, attacking with a full compliment of skaters gives a better chance of success when entering the offensive zone.

2. Pace

The constant urging at the aforementioned Rangers practice from coach Vigneault was, “Go, go, go…” By slowing the pace down, particularly heading up ice, the Blueshirts have played right into the strength of Ottawa’s defensive posture.

3. Finish

Both games in Ottawa, the Rangers were victimized late in the game by an unfortunate bounce in Game 1 and cautious play in Game 2. If “60 minutes” had been the mantra, this thing would be in a little different place heading home for Game 3. Start strong. Finish stronger.

COVERAGE

Don La Greca, Kenny Albert, John Giannone and I will have all the action tonight on ESPN 98.7 FM with the pre-game set for 6:30. Puck drops a little after 7. MSG Network will have complete post game coverage.

Check it out!