By Saturday night around 9:30 p.m., the New York Rangers could be moving on to the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoff semifinals. But first, there are still two important games that the Blueshirts must win in their current series against the Ottawa Senators, and the opportunity to go up three games to none tonight before coming back home to Madison Square Garden on Saturday couldn’t be any better.
The Rangers took the edge in the series on Monday at Scotiabank Place, when they shut-out the Sens in a 1-0 Game 3 victory. 39 saves from Henrik Lundqvist and a third period tally from Brian Boyle led the way, as did the penalty-kill, which was perfect on the night. After a wild and whacky Game 2 last Saturday, New York did a fantastic job of bringing Game 3 to a level that they are more comfortable playing at, and they will be looking to do just the same on this night in Game 4.
Ottawa, meanwhile, is a very frustrated hockey club at the moment. They didn’t play bad at all on Monday in front of their rowdy home crowd, but an unfortunate bounce and their inability to finish such glorious chances did them in. The problem there is that they can’t do very much more to gain additional prime scoring chances to the ones they created in their previous outing, and there’s nothing they can do to make Henrik Lundqvist, well, worse.
As the prior two games have been, Game 4 will be a battle from start to finish. Both teams have tightened up well and are receiving stellar goaltending, so the goals shouldn’t be coming at a frequent pace. At least that will be the gameplan going into this contest, but with how unpredictable these playoffs have been, you never know.
The Rangers, though, will strive to play more of a 60-minute game in this one. Game 3 saw some periods of time in which the Rangers, by no means, looked like a top seed team. If they want to wrap this series up in the next two games, that needs to change right from puck drop.
This will require more out of the top guys offensively for the Rangers, who have been rather quiet as of late. This is in reference to Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, who combined for only three shots on goal on Wednesday. That’s unacceptable for those two, but Ottawa has also done a nice job of defending them as well. Somehow these two need to create more space for each other, and hopefully the addition of rookie Chris Kreider will help there.
Speaking of which, head coach John Tortorella would not speak about his lineup after the skate this morning (surprise, surprise), but there’s no reason to believe that he has any changes in mind after his team’s win on Wednesday. That would mean Kreider will be playing in his second straight NHL playoff game, and hopefully will look to add a tad more than he did in his first go-around.
But as I said, overall, Kreider held his own in his debut, and that was all that was asked of him in the absence of Carl Hagelin (two games remaining on suspension).
New York Rangers Probable Lineup