Rangers Head South For a Tough Test in Nashville

The Rangers are in Nashville this evening to take on the Predators in the first of two consecutive on the road against formidable Western Conference opponents.

Nashville presently sits in second place in the very deep Central Division just 2 points behind Winnipeg despite having played three fewer games than the Jets.

Meanwhile, the Blueshirts have tumbled to the seventh spot in the Metro Division but are still in the thick of things due to the mediocrity that has descended upon the division. Columbus, the first wild card holder, is just three points within reach, while the Flyers hold down the second wild card spot two points ahead of the Blueshirts. For the better part of the first half of the season, competitiveness was the story of the Metro. Of recent, less than stellar play by the five Eastern Conference wild card contenders has kept the playoff race a story.

[Watch Rangers-Predators Tonight On MSG & MSG GO]

The Rangers are coming off a very poorly played game on their part and as a result were beaten, 4-0 by Toronto. In his second consecutive start, Henrik Lundqvist failed to finish what he started and was pulled in the second period after giving up four goals on just 13 Toronto shots. Needless to say, the playoff prospects are bleak without a stellar game from Lundqvist. A reset is needed on the part of The King, and if his career is any indication he will figure things out and the hope is, sooner than later.

The speed and skill of Toronto made the Rangers look a lot slower than they are. But as it is imperative that Henrik is better, the Blueshirts need to figure out how to handle a speedy, skilled opponent, of which there a number on the remaining schedule. Getting in better defending position quickly, putting the puck in areas where the consequence of a turnover isn’t so negatively consequential and taking what is given, are just a few things that would allow a better chance of being competitive down the stretch. Something they were not against the Leafs.

On paper and on ice, Nashville is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. As of today, they are 100% healthy and deep. They boast the second best goaltending tandem in the league. Their top four defensemen represent the best top-4 for in the business. Deep in the middle, well-coached while employing a straightforward, charge the net style off the wings, last years’ Cup finalist has every right to think they can hoist Lord Stanley this spring. While goals may be a little harder to come by then a couple of the other top challengers and injury will play its role, this is a group that should not be sold short. They are that good.

KEYS

1. Start

Against the Leafs a sluggish opening shift of the game resulted in a Ranger penalty in the first minute. The opening shift of the second period resulted in Toronto’s third goal on the night. That will not work against this Nashville team in a hostile environment known as Bridgestone Arena.

2. Take What is Given

Under pressure, it is crucial to recognize what is given and make a play accordingly. If it is not there don’t force it. Rest assured Nashville will not be a passive opponent. Expect pressure.

3. Henrik Lundqvist

It is too easy, but it is that crucial. Hank has to give his team a chance. He will see a ton of Predator traffic and will need to battle. The defense has to support but at the end of the day, the fate of the Rangers continues to ride on the shoulders of their best player, Henrik Lundqvist.

[Watch Rangers-Predators Tonight On MSG & MSG GO]

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.