As the New York Rangers hung on for dear life at the end of game 7 of the first round of their opening series vs. the Flyers, one could wonder why the team was making it this hard on themselves. The Rangers were clearly the more talented team from top to bottom in their lineup, but as Rangers fans will tell you, the team has a way of not making anything easy on themselves, or their fans. The team ended up winning game 7 of their opening series with the Flyers by a score of 2-1, in turn advancing to the 2nd round to face the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In the opening round vs. the Flyers, the Rangers at times showed the wide spread of talent separating themselves and the Flyers. The team was proving to be much faster in their transition and showed a real strength for controlling the puck in the Flyers’ zone. However, the team proved to be prone to the neutral zone turnover, and it seemed that each time that occurred, the Flyers were able to take advantage, usually on the scoreboard. Another thing haunting the Rangers was their lack of efficiency on special teams. The Rangers were a paltry 3 for 29 on the power play vs. the Flyers, while allowing the Flyers to score on 6 of their 21 power play chances. If the team continues that power play futility in the next series, it could just spell a quick exit for the Rangers. If your opponent does not fear your power play, they will almost certainly take liberties in regards to rough play, not concerned about being shorthanded. The reason the Rangers were able to defeat the Flyers and move on in this 2014 tournament was simply the depth of their roster. The Rangers first line struggled through most of the series vs. the Flyers, but were often bailed out by their 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th line at times.
The Rangers/Penguins second round series opens tonight at the Consul Energy Center in Pittsburgh. If the Rangers are to have any hope for success in this series, they will need to show great improvement on their special teams, as well as continue to receive support from their 2nd through 4th lines. In regards to the Ranger’s 1st line, this might be a good time to step up and show the Penguins that they too have some elite talent at the top of their lineup. Rick Nash showed some signs of coming out of his 1st round slumber during game 7 of the Flyers series. If Nash can continue to improve, his linemates Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan, (who both did have good 1st round series,) might continue to up their play as well.