Just four games have been played between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators in this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, but already the drama has been at an extraordinary high. Both teams have experienced sky high over the past week, and both teams have also experienced rock bottom. All locked up at two games apiece, there has not been a clear-cut ‘better’ team as of yet, but that will change in what has now become a best of three between these clubs. The outcome of tonight’s Game 5 at Madison Square Garden will have a large say in that, as the loser will be facing elimination on Monday in Ottawa.
The Rangers have no intentions of being that team, especially with the home crowd being on their side tonight after a very frustrating overtime loss to the Sens back on Wednesday. Regardless of what head coach John Tortorella may have or may not have said following that game, his team was embarrassed. They were outworked, they repeatedly handed their opponent momentum and played not to lose instead of to win. There are no excuses to justify such play in a pivotal postseason tilt, and the Blueshirts should be furious with themselves right now.
Brandon Prust stepped up this morning and, at least from his standpoint, confirmed that they are, in fact, not happy right now:
"We should be pissed off. We want to be the hardest working team"
They shouldn’t just want to be the hardest working team; they should be the hardest working team. The Rangers are the better squad in this match-up, everyone knows that, and it’s about time they start playing like it. The half-hearted effort we’ve seen in the past two games is disgraceful and needs to become a thing of the past once the puck drops for Game 5 tonight.
Yes, the Senators are a good team, but they should not be tied with the Rangers in this series right now. New York has given them more credit than they deserve and has made them look stronger than they should. For goodness sake, the Rangers have made Craig Anderson look just as good as Henrik Lundqvist – you’ve got to be kidding.
Enough is enough. The Rangers need to bring back the intensity they had in long spurts during the first game of this series and win the next two with that energy. That night was the only one of this series in which the Rangers looked like the top seed in the Eastern Conference. In the rest they have looked like a team that barely squeaked in and is now hanging on for dear life. If they’re happy with that, then they should continue playing down to the Senators’ level and be satisfied with elimination on Monday. But I know that isn’t the case, and they will want this game tonight more than any other.
A major key tonight will be for the Rangers to stay out of the penalty box. They've been very foolish with discipline as of late, and it has really hurt them against this Senators team. I'm sure this is driving the coaching staff crazy and was a major topic of discussion over the past two days. There's very little room for error in this area of the game, especially since the Rangers need all of the time they can get to possibly generate something offensively. Killing penalties takes away from that.
In attempt to spark the dormant offense, coach Tortorella split up the top two lines in Game 4 and will leave them that way this evening. Marian Gaborik, who has just one goal in the series, will now skate with Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov. Brad Richards, meanwhile, will be centering Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. Every single player just mentioned has another gear or two and must be better beginning tonight.
Aside from that, the lineup is expected to remain the same for the Rangers, which obviously means Henrik Lundqvist in net – another player who I feel can be a tad bit better.
New York Rangers Lineup