Rangers Aim for Redemption Against Leafs

The Rangers play their final game before the Christmas break this evening when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at The Garden.

It is the second of three meetings between the Original-Six franchises and the Rangers are looking for redemption on a couple of fronts.

[Watch Rangers-Maple Leafs Tonight on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]

Front number one. The Rangers enter the game tonight coming off a turnover-riddled affair in Newark against the Devils that saw Henrik Lundqvist steal a point in a 4-3 shootout loss. A turnover in the defensive zone coming shortly after the game’s opening faceoff forced Henrik to make two quality saves. That sequence quickly hinted at what was to come the rest of the evening. Constant pressure from New Jersey complimented with the Blueshirts’ inability to play with any poise, lead to a less than competitive match from a Ranger point of view. The team that won deserved what it got while the Rangers salvaged a point in a game they were never in, despite what the scoreboard showed, but for the brilliance of Lundqvist.

Front number two. In the second game of the season the Rangers visited Toronto and were absolutely overwhelmed in the first period falling behind by a 5-1 count 17 minutes into the game. Rallying to tie the game in the second at 5-all after Henrik was pulled in favor of Ondrej Pavelec, Toronto scored three unanswered goals in the third and the Blueshirts fell by an 8-5 count.

So, near-term there should be a motivating taste of bitterness given how the Rangers played let alone the result against the Devils. Longer-term, there should be that same motivating sense of bitterness given how they played the last time the Rangers suited up against the Leafs. It’s motivation that should give cause to believe a Ranger A-game will show up at MSG this evening.

We should not lose sight of the fact that this Ranger group has provided plenty of evidence of being a team that learns and gets back on the horse after suffering a setback. It’s an occurrence of which is bound to happen over the course of the long NHL regular season.

KEYS

1. Turnovers

It is impossible to have any chance of success if you do not manage what you do with the puck. Most of what happens is a direct result of what is done with the puck, particularly when you are forced to move it. The Leafs forwards are skilled and talented. Teeing it up for them, by giving them the puck in an uncontested manner will make for a very, very long night.

2. Shots on Goal

While Henrik Lundqvist seems to thrive with a heavy workload, even The King needs a night where he is not under a deluge of opponents shots on goal. In his last five starts, he has faced an average of 37.6 shots. Being better with the puck should help The King with a little easier night in net.

3. Battle Level

While the Leaf story is largely predicated on the skill of their youth they do compete with a healthy ingredient of grit and snarl. The Rangers have to be willing to battle in the small areas with and without the puck. Battles provide emotion and emotion is a good thing.

[Watch Rangers-Maple Leafs Tonight on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]