By: Michael Abitabilo
When the New York Rangers took a 2-0 lead 8:22 into the first period Sunday, perhaps they thought they had their first round series under control and that the Flyers would just roll over and die. But the Rangers don’t because the Flyers didn’t. Instead, after losing their seventh straight Stanley Cup playoff game two, the Rangers head to Philadelphia having lost their home ice advantage, and knowing they are likely in for yet another extended first round series.
On paper, the Rangers put together a reasonable facsimile of their game one effort: their shots on goal, hits, giveaway/takeaway and faceoff numbers were all nearly identical. Not surprisingly, though, the Flyers were substantially better than they were in game one. In addition to generating 10 more shots on goal than they did last Thursday, the Flyers forechecked effectively throughout, and made it difficult for the Rangers to get out of their defensive zone. The Rangers failed to elevate their play and/or match the Flyers’ intensity, consistently allowing the team in orange to win the physical battles.
After their success on the power play in game one, the Rangers seemed preoccupied with drawing penalties and in fact took two diving penalties in the process. While they did end up with six power plays, they were only able to convert once. The Flyers, on the other hand, went 2-3 on the power play, including the empty net goal that followed the Rangers’ inexcusable too many men on the ice penalty with 1:19 left in the third period.
The Rangers were among the league’s best road teams this season, and so the fact that they have lost home ice advantage isn’t of itself cause for concern. But they will need to be better from top to bottom. Rick Nash must be heard from. The defense must contribute offensively. And then there is Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist didn’t play poorly Sunday, but he also wasn’t the difference he needs to be. The Rangers might be good enough to win this series if the Flyers’ goaltender(s) play him to a draw, but they won’t be able do it in less than seven games under those circumstances. With the Flyers sure to be riding high in front of their home crowd for game three, the Rangers could certainly use a statement game from Lundqvist on Tuesday. A 35-save shutout would go a long way towards restoring order in what has been a bipolar series thus far.
While it might seem obvious to say game three is important, consider this: according to the incredible whowins.com, the team that takes a 2-1 series lead has a 69% chance of winning the series. Tuesday is the time; it’s up to the Rangers to decide if they are the team.
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Mike Abitabilo is the co-founder of the Read Zone, and is now very worried about this series.