Friday, April 22, 2011

Rangers Change Lines Not Personnel for Game 5

Going into their do or die Game 5 matchup with the Capitals, head coach John Tortorella is keeping the same personnel in the lineup, but tinkering with how they combine.  According to Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants, the offensive lines seen to close Game 4 will be the ones used to start Game 5 and not those which were announced prior to Game 4.  The lines were as follows:

Fedotenko - Dubinsky - Gaborik

Avery - Boyle - Prust
Wolski - Anisimov - Stepan
Prospal - Christensen - Drury
The change is a swap of Prospal and Wolski, which is somewhat surprising given that Wolski only played 9:40 in Game 4 while Prospal played 26:04.  The move could signify that Wolski is getting another chance to use his skill in a more important role or that Tortorella might ride his veterans more and play Christensen and Drury more while the young guys take a secondary role in the elimination game. 

On defense everyone will remain the same so Steve Eminger is out again.

Henrik Lundqvist Snubbed In Vezina Trophy Finalists

The NHL announced the three finalists for the Vezina trophy this afternoon and Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was not amongst them.  The finalists were Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators and Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks. 
On the season Lundqvist recorded a 36-27-5 record with a 2.28 goals against average and .923 save percentage.  Lundqvist led the league with 11 shutouts on the season.
Lundqvist and/or Carey Price both would have been more deserving choices than Luongo, but being on the President's Cup winning team was important to the voters.
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Rumor: Mats Zuccarello Suffered Broken Hand Last Night

The New York Rangers sent Mats Zuccarello down to the Connecticut Whale this week so that he could get valuable playing time in a large role during the playoffs.  According to reports this morning that plan has been foiled by a fractured hand Zuccarello suffered in the Whale's 5-4 loss to Portland last night.  This development is not unlike when the Rangers sent Michael Del Zotto down to the Whale following the trade deadline and watched him break a finger.  The injury is likely to keep Zuccarello out of both the rest of the Whale season and the World Championships.  Zuccarello showed flashes of promise in his first season in North America and will look to improve on that next season.  Consistency and not skill was the issue for Zuccarello who had some excellent games and then many where he was a limited factor.  Finishing around the net is something that he, like many Rangers players, could use work on for next season.  His familiarity with the North American style of play is something that will help him immensely preparing for next season as compared to this year.

In the meantime the Whale will look to rebound in the series against Portland, which they currently trail 3-2.

Rangers Can Beat The Odds Again, Beat The Capitals

Being against the odds is nothing new for the 2010-11 New York Rangers, so why should their first round playoff series be any different.  Before the season the team wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs.  During their second half losing streak they were supposed to fold and admit their first half was nothing more than a fluke.  Going into the regular season finale against the Devils the odds were against them of even making the playoffs.  The Rangers have defied the odds multiple times this season and now they will have to do it again with three straight wins against Washington if they want to keep playing.
In each of the previous scenarios the team has responded by showing heart, determination, and character.  It is from that basis that until the Rangers season is officially over that this team cannot be counted out of anything.  There is no doubt the climb is uphill and steep against the more talented Capitals.  At the same time, the Rangers have had an opportunity to win three of the four games in this series and be the ones looking to clinch on Saturday instead of the team looking to stay alive. 
There are positives and negatives to the reality they could have easily won three of the first four games instead of lost them.  The fact they are in every game says they can compete at the same level as this team is a good thing.  On the negative side that they have been unable to close out two third period leads is certainly disheartening, but also goes against the way the team played all season long.  The power play being 1-for-18 in the series is something that has cost them at least one game in the series.  It could also be said that when you are that bad, sometimes you are just due to get one.
Any positive in the series can be turned into a negative and vice versa, but with the way the team has competed all season, until they are done, we have to look at the positive side and believe in their chances.  There is no doubt that come Game 5, with their back against the wall, the New York Rangers will come out fighting.  It is who they are.  It is what they do.  Saturday does not afford the Rangers the chance to win the series, but if they can get that win in Washington, then they force the Capitals back to the Garden where holding home ice means an anything can happen Game 7. 
That scenario might seem like a longshot after the heartbreak of Game 4, but remember that these same Capitals blew a 3-1 lead against the Montreal Canadiens last season and even came back from 3-1 down to beat us two seasons ago.  Playoff series are in large measure about momentum and with a win on Saturday the Rangers have the ability to swing momentum and let doubt creep into the minds of the Capitals.  This team has not quit all season and until they are officially out of the playoffs you will not find me quitting on them.  No team has enjoyed being the underdog more than this squad, so maybe they have the Capitals right where they want them.