This time last week, the New York Rangers sat pretty high and mighty with a 2-0 advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against their local rivals, the New Jersey Devils.
And why not?
Coming off identical 5-1 wins, everything was happening at the right time for the Blueshirts. And then a funny thing happened on the way to the second round for the Rangers – the Devils came alive again, and tonight the Rangers will either win or go home in an epic playoff collapse.
No excuses here – the Devils have your number.
The Rangers put up an offensive firepower show in the first two playoff games at the Prudential Center, but I think somebody forgot to tell them that this is a best-of-four series, not a best-of-two, to advance to the next playoff round. The Devils figured things out, moved Akira Schmid into the net, and systematically shut down whatever offense the Rangers had in the first two games. In Game Three, Chris Kreider had the lone Rangers goal, and Vincent Trocheck found the net once in Game Four. Game Five – forget about it.
In Game Five, the Rangers couldn’t do anything resembling an offensive zone attack as the Devils outshot the Rangers 43-23. When you’re outshot in a hockey game by 20, chances are your opponent is making something happen, and either your accurate with fewer shots, or you’re walking away with a loss.
Hey, remember this thing called Special Teams?
Throughout the 2022-23 season, the Rangers have taken great pride in their special teams’ units and, at times, dominated their opponents with their power play units. In this playoff round, the Blueshirts have fallen on lousy power play times and are now 0-13 in power play production. In Game Five, the Rangers had a two-person power play advantage twice and couldn’t find the net, as they only fired off a total of four shots total. Come on, folks, you have a two-person advantage twice in a hockey game, and you do nothing with those opportunities? Are you asking to go home and watch the rest of the playoffs in the comfort of your living room?
Intestinal fortitude time.
The New York Rangers better find some serious intestinal fortitude tonight and find it quickly. The New Jersey Devils are on a roll, and Akira Schmid looks like the Igor Shesterkin of last season’s playoffs. This is no time for excuses, no time for rationalizations and explanations. The Rangers simply need to win, or it’s time to bow out and let the Devils move on – a simple choice.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 03: Jacob Trouba #8 of the New York Rangers checks Andrei Svechnikov #37 of the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period at Madison Square Garden on January 03, 2023, in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Hurricanes 5-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images )