Second Round Match-ups heating Up: Tonight’s Pivotal Games
Round 2 of the NHL Playoffs has some teams riding high and others slumping and wondering how to fix the broken. Tonight’s matchups include a beaten and battered NY Rangers facing the big bad Boston Bruins. This is a matchup that we have waited over 40 years to see happen and NY needs to rally before they find themselves down 3-0 to Boston. It’s a different story in the West as the blood thirsty San Jose Sharks are facing off with the defending Champs, LA Kings. The Sharks started to rally in Game 3 with a hero; but can they continue to their fight or will the Champs rise again?
New York Rangers host Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Boston leads series 2-0
The Rangers managed to overcome a 2-0 deficit against the Washington Capitals in the first round, but Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will need to lead the charge in order for them to do that again. But is the king struggling with an injury or the lack of help from his teammates?
Lundqvist’s left shoulder is an area of concern after he was stung by a Daniel Paille shot. He later said that the situation was “under control” and he’s expected to play, but it’s not clear if he’s truly 100%. After allowing five goals on 32 shots in the latest Rangers loss, Lundqvist said that he needed to be better, but he would also need the guys in front of him to step up.
The Rangers have averaged just 2.22 goals per game in the playoffs. They have skilled forwards capable of stepping up, but they haven’t been reliable. Brad Richards in particular has been a disappointment and has logged 12:57 minutes or less in each of the Rangers’ last four games.
On top of that, New York still has a horrid 5.6% power-play success rate.
The Bruins scored their last three goals in Game 2 because they transitioned from defense to offense with a lot of speed and the Rangers essentially backed off, creating problems with their gaps and coverages in front of Lundqvist. It came as a surprise to Tortorella after he broke down the game film because it’s not something he typically sees from his team.
If the Rangers want to success in Game 3 against Boston they have 5 keys they must work on and execute tonight:
- Handle Boston’s Speed
- Get Girardi on a bounce-back Game
- Score on the Power Play
- Help King Lundqvist
- Use the Forecheck Early and Often
San Jose Sharks host Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Los Angeles leads 2-1
Sharks forward Logan Couture came back from an injury to score the overtime game-winner on Saturday and keep San Jose in this series, but as Sharks Coach Todd McLellan said, “We haven’t accomplished anything.” Not yet at least. “If our intensity or urgency drops because we’ve won a single game, I would be disappointed in our group,” McLellan told ESPN.
Meanwhile Kings captain Dustin Brown pointed out that over the last two years, the Kings have both been down in a series 2-0 only to come back and have taken a 2-0 lead in series before.
“We know what they’re thinking,” Brown said. He added, “It’s a matter of having the killer instinct.” Kings have rallied before and may just get another body back that prevailed in the playoffs for the Kings in 2011. That would be Kyle Clifford.
Clifford skated with the fourth line in practice Monday, with Brad Richardson and Colin Fraser, and indicated he will be in for Game 4. “It definitely looks that way,” Clifford said. “It feels good to get back in the lineup. Playing with those guys, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Coach Darryl Sutter said that “everybody that’s on the ice is available. At some point it will be good to have him back.” Clifford has been out since May 8 with an undisclosed injury. He is believed to have been cleared for contact Sunday.
The playoffs are just heating up and all the series are stirring the pot and making a mark on the NHL’s legacy. Which two teams will come out victorious in tonight’s Stanley Cup matchups?