Clinching the Eastern Conference was the first task at hand. Now, the deep playoff run that the New York Rangers wanted to add to their storybook season is in jeopardy tonight. Heading back to Ottawa’s Scotia Bank Place for Game 6 of this turbulent series, the Rangers’ momentum has slumped. But, there is hope in returning rookie Carl Hagelin, whose speed and position on the top line may spark a comeback for the Blueshirts.
Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards have not put forth their usual performance without Hagelin. Filling the void on the top line was New York’s recent newbie, Chris Kreider. Gaborik and Richards have been criticized for their lack of effort in the playoffs. Gaborik has posted three points, a goal and two power-play assists. Richards also contributed a goal and two power-play assists. Hagelin’s absence has been noticed for his talented speed and forechecking ability.
Carl Hagelin was suspended three games by the NHL for elbowing Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2. Brendan Shanahan ruled on the suspension citing Haglein’s action was, “a reckless strike to the side of Alfredsson’s head.” Hagelin apologized via text to Alfredsson. The Ottawa captain is hopeful to make a return for Game 6.
The series has been a smackdown of penalties and injuries. The most recent casualty, Brian Boyle is likely out for Game 5. During Game 5, Boyle received a high hit from Ottawa’s Chris Neil. In the third period, Neil barreled into the 6-foot-7 forward’s head, but there was no call. After reviewing the play, the NHL has not scheduled a disciplinary hearing for Neil, because the play was read as a full body check, where the body is the principal point of contact. After the game, Coach Tortorella stated that Boyle had a concussion and was “out.”
If Boyle can’t play, then rookie Chris Kreider may be in the lineup for his fourth straight game. Kreider recently signed with the Rangers after his college season ended. The 19-year old is experienced in winning through a set of series when he won an NCAA championship with Boston College.
New York faces a tough turn in Ottawa. Coming into the series with 51 wins, first-place finishes in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, the Rangers have found themselves staring at elimination. The No. 8 seeded Senators have swung the series their way. Watching the Western Conference, President’s Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks lose ground to the No. 8 seeded Los Angeles Kings, is a story the Rangers hope not to tell.
The Rangers scored four goals in its series-opening win, but has only five in the four games since. Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson has stopped 66 consecutive shots and hasn’t allowed a goal in 116 minutes, 32 seconds, back to the first period of Game 4 when New York took a 2-0 lead before a loss in overtime for the second time in the series. Anderson is in his groove, which can ride for weeks.
With playoff hero Boyle out, Hagelin set to return, the Rangers look to produce the quality game that got them in the Stanley Cup playoff hunt. If they win, they get another chance. If they lose, they plan tee time. Let’s go Rangers is a chant they won’t here tonight. Lundqvist will need to be super-hero vigilant as the Senators will pound the net with force as the last Canadian team standing.
Heidi has been a Rangers fan since the Gretzky years. While focusing on The Blue Line and hockey’s stalwart defenders, Heidi also connects with the human side of hockey. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or at her blog Don’t Cross My Blue Line.