The display put on by the New York Rangers in Saturday's Game 3 at the Prudential Center was less than satisfactory. Mentally, the team did not arrive until very late in the second period when head coach John Tortorella was forced to call a timeout in order to get his squad in line before they fell into a hole they would be unable to climb out of. Yet, because of the superhuman efforts from goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and two back-to-back goals in the third period, the lackluster Rangers still managed to win the game and take a two games to one advantage in the series. This win ranks up there with the 6.6 second comeback victory against the Washington Capitals in the prior round in terms of miraculous wins.
So now, thanks to a little luck being on their side, the Blueshirts have the opportunity, once again, to accomplish a feat they have not yet accomplished in the postseason; take a 3-1 lead in a series. Seeing that New York has now been outplayed in two of the three games so far in this series against New Jersey, taking a two-game lead would be gargantuan, especially with the Los Angeles Kings' run to the Cup being postponed with a loss to the Coyotes on Sunday afternoon. Since the beginning of Game 2, the Devils have been the faster and stronger team, so the Rangers would be foolish not to put their rival at a 3-1 disadvantage going back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5.
But even so, John Tortorella's Rangers must establish an attack of their own and end this approach of simply surviving two out of three periods every night. Their effort in the third period on Saturday was perfect, as it was in the second period of Game 2. As for the rest? The team sat on its heels and allowed the Devils to walk all over them, relying on their goaltender and special teams to save the day. Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding last game, but he simply cannot play at such a level every night; he'd quickly get exhausted being the only player to show up to the rink.
Few times in this series have the Rangers developed and maintained a respectable forecheck in the offensive zone, but when they have it's been effective in scoring them goals. Just look to the two scoring plays on Saturday for prime examples. Dan Girardi receives a faceoff win and quickly throws it at the net for the first tally, and then Ryan McDonagh does something similar on the following goal, and his shot ended up being perfectly deflected by Chris Kreider cutting through the slot. Marty Brodeur's been good, but not great, and if the Rangers can test him, the results will obviously sway in their favor as we saw in that game.
But fatigue may and should be a major question being raised right now, because fatigue may be the only thing stopping the Rangers. They have beaten themselves more than the Devils have in this series, and at some point you have to wonder if that's a result of a force that is out of their control. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but tired or not, the Rangers need to play better hockey if they want to even make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, let alone win the trophy upon getting there.
As far as the lineup goes, Brandon Prust will obviously be out after being suspended yesterday for his high hit to the head of Anton Volchenkov in the second period on Saturday. Now based on this morning's team skate, it looks as if Stu Bickel will be moved up to forward to fill Prust's spot for the time being. Mats Zuccarello did not skate with the team today, so that rules him out, and Brandon Dubinsky (ankle) says he is not ready to jump in just yet, either.
This means Steve Eminger stays in on defense for the second straight game.
New York Rangers (Expected) Lineup