Greetings from a very soggy Ottawa where the Rangers look to extend an unbeaten streak to three and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semis against the Senators.
The Blueshirts are coming off back-to-back wins at The Garden with games played about as soundly as they have been played in some time. We have talked extensively about the crucial role depth plays for this team. The Game 4 win was another clear example. Two goals from Oscar Lindberg, a beauty from Nick Holden and a couple of grind-it-out assists from Tanner Glass led the way to a 4-1 win. Probably not the cast you would have in your “goal pool” but indicative of how things need to unfold for the Rangers during the playoffs. Participation from everyone.
The Rangers made a concerted effort after Game 2 to protect their own end of the ice with a better commitment to one-on-one battles and better support around the puck. The results of that renewed commitment were clear in both games, particularly in Game 4. The Senators had just 10 face-offs in the Ranger end of the ice after the first two periods. A clear indication of how little time they were able to spend in the Ranger zone. As a result, Henrik Lundqvist once again played a minor role in the victory. While still the most important player Lundqvist, playing a minor role in a Blueshirt victory is a really good thing.
I would not expect the shenanigans that signed off Game 4 to continue today in Ottawa. Ottawa does not have the makeup to physically intimidate being a group built on speed, skill and discipline. The Rangers have clearly shown not to be intimidated by the physical play of any opponent. What I saw reminded me of the old days when we played teams from the Soviet Union. When you never have the puck the game becomes unbelievably frustrating. I know how the Senators feel!
3 KEYS TO GAME 5
1. First 10 Minutes
The first 10 minutes will bear watching. The Rangers will look to continue to impose their will with the smart effort that has resulted in two consecutive wins. Expect Ottawa to come hard, given how they finished the last game here between these two teams, a double OT Senator victory.
It sounds like the Ottawa captain will suit up despite dealing with a nagging foot injury. Forcing him to pay a price when he handles the puck will continue to wear down the Senators most dangerous player. If he doesn’t play, better yet.
3. Defend the Net
Beat last time in here by a couple of late deflections, the Rangers must position sticks and bodies correctly in front of their net to give Lundqvist the best chance to see and ultimately stop Ottawa’s shots on goal.