While most of the experts have buried the Rangers, and some of my friends and relatives have climbed onto that wagon, I for one would like to step forward and pronounce in no uncertain terms, that we are not dead, not yet anyway. I know, the Devils have won eleven straight and are the greatest team ever assembled and the Rangers have lost six straight and have run out of gas.
Let me remind you loyal blueshirters that this is not the first time the Rangers have lost the first game in a playoff series. In fact, they have now lost ten straight playoff series openers. They have come back to win six of the previous nine playoff series. In the 1996 playoff series against the Canadiens, the Rangers lost the first two, at home no less, before sweeping the last four games and winning the series.
Tom Renney has his work cut out for him. While the team's penalties were the killers Renney had a chance to alter the game when Colin White went down early in the first period. The Rangers never tried to exploit the Devils defense that was now one man short and in fact played into the Devils hands by constantly trying to skate through the Devils trap rather than shot the puck in and let the forwards forecheck. However, the Rangers are at a disadvantage with this tactic as the third and fourth lines do not get much ice time, and they are the grinders and checkers. Unfortunately most of the ice time in this game, for them, was killing penalties, 18:29 minutes worth.
With Ward out and Jagr possibly out the Rangers have brought up forward Chad Wiseman from Hartford. Wiseman, 25 years old, is 6'1" and weighs 209 pounds. In sixty nine games with Hartford he is 19-36-55. He is being brought up for the possibility that Jagr will not play. I have no inside info but it is my opinion that Jagr will play, injury or not. I believe the Rangers should scrap their freewheeling offensive game and play a tough defensive game. Play to win a 3-2 game.
How do we do that? We start by trying to cut down on our penalties. I say try because I believe penalties are inbred into this Ranger team. Renney must sit Sandis Ozolinsh. Play Jason Strudwick. He has been rested and he does play a stay at home game. He is more solid on defense than Ozolinsh. Who isn't? In addition he can be handy with his dukes and I suspect that this game will bring out some nastiness as Cam Janssen seems intent on going after Ryan Hollweg. Hollweg alienated Janssen, again, by going after him after Janssen hit Kaspy and Hollweg defended Kaspy. Along these lines, Renney should dress Colton Orr and use him in Jason Ward's spot. This will give the Rangers some more needed toughness and some fighting ability. It's coming folks, I can smell it.
The mentality for this game should be defense, defense, defense. Give Lundqvist some support, line of sight, and the Prince will come up big for us. Make no mistake Lundqvist should be in goal. Putting in Weekes will truly be an act of panic and will not be good for the team's psyche. It will be an act of sheer desperation. If I'm wrong I will eat my words gladly.
ICINGS: The Rangers actually took sixteen (16) penalties against the Devils. Hollweg's last penalty amounted to four penalties. Jay Pandolfo is given great credit for stopping Jaromir Jagr. Jagr got nine shots on goal, one assist and many other passes would have been assists, but the Rangers couldn't convert.
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