Rangers Stick With Lundqvist To Weather The Lightning

(Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)
(Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

If the fans around the National Hockey League do not believe the Rangers can dig themselves out of this 2-1 hole then they clearly have not been watching this team play. The Rangers are notorious for getting into holes and finding ways out. Just last round they found themselves down 3-1 to the Washington Capitals and managed to claw their way to a Game 7 and take the series.

This series is only at 2-1 and the Rangers have the opportunity to make it a 2-2 Eastern Conference Final going back home to the Garden.

The Kings Throne

Henrik Lundqvist Rangers
(Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

Vigneault isn’t one to shy away from benching a goaltender in the playoffs. As the coach of the Vancouver Canucks, he replaced Roberto Luongo with Cory Schneider in a 2011 series. AV apparently sees things differently this year, and it could be mainly because Lundqvist has taken the Rangers this far. Besides, Cam Talbot, who went an outstanding 17-5-3 in Lundqvist’s absence and posted two shutouts, last played April 7.

“Is that a question?” Vigneault said, when reporters asked about Lundqvist. “Hank’s the guy.

AV and the team are putting their trust in Lundqvist and know they have to be better in front of him in order to survive this series.

“Hank is very accountable, very demanding of himself,” Vigneault said. ”He’s going to do what any good goaltender does. He’s going to put Wednesday’s game behind him and move on to Friday night.”

The Capitals scored 12 goals in their seven-game second-round series against the Rangers. Tampa Bay has scored six goals on 26 shots in Game 2 and six goals on 40 shots in Game 3, the Lightning have scored 12 goals the past two games against Henrik Lundqvist. Tampa Bay took  Game 2 on the road, converting on three of their six power-play opportunities. Wednesday night, they opened up the scoring on Lundqvist and scored at least five goals on Lundqvist for the fourth time in six meetings between the teams this season.

“Hank would be the first to say to you that six goals against is very uncharacteristic,” “In the number of games that he’s played for the Rangers, he’s been, on most nights, one of the top players.”

“We have to play much stronger in front of him,” captain Ryan McDonagh said. “Our foundation is built on our defensive play, and right now how we’ve played in that regard is a little shocking.”


Damage Control

The Tampa Bay Lightning (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
The Tampa Bay Lightning (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Rangers need to find a way to contain Tampas lethal ‘Triplet’ Line. The Triplets have accounted for 25 of Tampa Bay’s 47 playoff goals.

Wednesday’s Game 2 showed no difference in their ability to score. Palat had two goals along with Kucherov adding the game winner and Johnson, continuing his hot streak, after his Game 2 hat trick on a power-play goal, a short-handed goal and an even-strength goal, scored again in Game 3. He has 12 goals in 16 postseason games, tying the franchise record with former Tampa and Ranger player Brad Richards.

Nikita Kucherov now joins current Ranger, Martin St. Louis, as the only players with multiple OT goals for in one playoff year. St. Louis netted 2 OT winners back in 2004.

“That one line is playing extremely well, and we have to find a way to slow them down a little bit,” Rangers center Derek Stepan said. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence, they have good chemistry together, and one of the biggest things is they know where they’re going to be at all times.”

The Rangers know they can’t win games if they allow 6 goals per game. It’s time to dig down deep defensively and grab a hold of this track meet series.

“I think both teams want to play fast. I think that’s been our identity all season long,” Stamkos said.

“How do you slow a game down between two really fast teams?” Lightning coach Jon Cooper offered. “I think it’s just two hockey teams trying to win a game. If it’s 6-5 or 2-1, you’re still trying to win a game.”