The New York Rangers are in the worst possible hole right now and business as usual is not going to save them. But is it too late for adjustments in the final?
NEW YORK, NY - Though far from a one-dimensional team, the New York Rangers generally fare well when they've got the afterburners on. But in a Game 3 loss to Los Angeles, the Rangers couldn't effectively use that speed and the result was a 3-0 shutout on home ice.
With the Kings outmatching the Rangers in terms of size and physicality, New York was never going to win a slugfest-type of series, so when L.A.'s defenders kicked off Game 3 by taking angles on speedsters such as Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider instead of trying to beat them to the puck. From there, the Kings would seal off any offensive threat, causing New York to sputter in the offensive zone.
When the Rangers see daylight, goaltender Jonathan Quick was there to snuff out any hope. Kreider was sprung off the opening draw of the third period for a breakaway, but Quick was there to smush the opportunity.
One of New York's most effective players was Mats Zuccarello. The quick and shifty Norwegian did manage to draw several penalties and had some chances, so he's not ready to give up yet.
“All we have to do is score goals," he said. "I felt we were the better team but we didn't score.”
One area where the Rangers were most definitely not the better team was on the power play. New York was feckless on the man advantage and though it's probably too late to change course, it was abundantly clear that having center Brad Richards on the point was more of a liability than an asset. Too often Richards allowed plays to die on his watch and with L.A. giving little up during 5-on-5 play, those power play failures were crucial.
“Not enough opportunity," said defenseman Ryan McDonagh. "I mean, we had a lot of power plays, but we didn't give ourselves chances. A shot or two at a time; it's the third or fourth one that we say is going to be the goal and we didn't give ourselves enough of those.”
Whether it was conscious or not, the Kings could even take a "good" penalty here or there since New York was so ineffective on the power play. Drew Doughty, for example, hooked Rick Nash midway through the second period when the big Rangers winger looked to have an easy wraparound during a wild scramble. Doughty probably makes that play anyway, but it stung a lot less when New York inevitably whiffed on the ensuing two-minute advantage.
And despite Zuccarello's protestations, the Rangers will need to try something new in Game 4 if the speed gets bottled up again. New York did outshoot the Kings 32-15, but clearly another tack is necessary.
“It's a matter of finding more ways to create," McDonagh said. "Better traffic in front of the net, getting more bodies there to bang in rebounds. Just putting shots on net and outshooting a team doesn't mean anything at this point.”
In fact, the only thing that matters for New York now is a win in Game 4; something and anything that can prolong this series and send it back to California. Los Angeles played its best match of the series in Game 3 and that doesn't bode well for a Rangers team that is trending the wrong way right now.
“We gotta win four straight, it's as easy as that," Zuccarello said. "It's going to be tough, but nothing's impossible.”