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Rangers return to practice with bodies and minds hopefully ready for Game 6

May 15, 2024, 12:39 PM ET [89 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Tuesday, the Rangers rested. The hope has to be that the 24 hours off gave the team a chance to rest their bodies, but more important, their minds, to get into the right physical and mental space for Thursday’s Game 6. New York was vastly outplayed in Game 5 by Carolina, who stayed alive in Game 4 and flipped the series narrative Monday. The Blueshirts have another chance to end the series Thursday.

That clause, “end the series,” is what needs to be the mantra over and over amongst the team. Despite how poor they looked and badly they played - and credit also has to go to the Canes - New York has another chance to complete the task Thursday. All Carolina has done so far is extend the series, they still are on the brink of coming home. New York has to match the desperation, and more important, effort from the Canes to return home victorious.

Lots has been written and spoken about regarding how the Rangers have played. The argument can be played that Carolina has had the better of play for a good portion of the series. That goes beyond just the last two games. New York made a myriad of defensive mistakes Monday while the offense was MIA. If their best players don’t pick up their play, we know where the end result may land.

This team has been resilient all season. Thursday is just another opportunity- and yes, it has to be viewed as an opportunity - to show that again. Every time they were challenged, New York answered the bell. They are facing a very good team, and while that is the case, guess what, so are the Rangers. They need to clean up their mistakes, adjust to what is being thrown at them, why is why Peter Laviolette and not Gerard Gallant is the coach, and find a way to get a win.

Many have the view that this team has a history of “choking.” Given what happened in 2022 versus Tampa and last year against New Jersey, it’s difficult not to have that opinion. The only way that narrative gets flipped is to finish Carolina off and advance forward. That’s it, nothing else will matter.

I would love to see Zac Jones in, I don’t think that is going to happen. If Filip Chytil is healthy, having him in the lineup would be a huge boost. If Matt Rempe is going to play, let him be a difference maker cognizant of Carolina having the last change. If the lineup stays the same and New York is scuffling, try Jimmy Vesey again on the top line as his willingness and ability to forecheck and be physical could free up the glimmer twins while helping that line defensively. Brett Pesce could make his first appearance of the series for Carolina which helps that D, but New York needs to worry about what they are doing and less about who Carolina has on the ice. Tony D has actually been decent for the Canes and he may be the odd man out for Pesce. Panarin needs to be the Panarin we saw early this series.

Two good columns on what has ailed the Rangers, why there is confidence and concern and what needs to be done to flip the script are below. To me, finding a way to get Adam Fox going is huge. He is the fulcrum to the power play and the defense. If Fox struggles, the trickle down impact is huge. He is clearly not 100 per cent but has to find a way to be impactful.

Carolina has changed their penalty kill. They are pressuring throughout the neutral zone and come up higher in the D zone. New York has to be quicker with the puck to break the pressure and dump in deep when needed. But that requires winning 1:1 battles, which have gone all Carolina the last two games. When they gain the zone, bring Vincent Trocheck higher to create a passing angle, which could result in an odd-man situation down low to create chances.

Defensively, no lazy changes and better communication as well as 100% effort and maintain defensive structure. Jordan Staal’s tying goal resulted from a failure on the first two items. Evgeny Kuznetsov’s game winner due to a poor back check and laziness by Artemi Panarin. Jordan Martinook’s goal was a result of a bad turnover but a breakdown of the defense and no net front coverage. The offense has to be better but so does the D, which has been cratered by Carolina.

Congratulations to Jacob Trouba who won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award on Tuesday. The award is presented annually to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice, and who plays a leading role in his community growing the game of hockey. Trouba winning the award has kicked off a little bit of a social media storm as to if he is deserving given his “style of play.” A somewhat valid argument but that ignores all the work he does off the ice which was a major contributor to him garnering the award.

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