New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators, 7:30 PM at ScotiaBank Place
Game Three, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Series Tied 1-1
Where To Watch: MSG Network
Where To Listen: 1050 ESPN Radio, and newyork rangers.com
Live In-Game Chat: 7:15 PM on BlueshirtsUnited.com
After a fairly placid and routine opener to this best-of-seven quarterfinal series---won by the Rangers 4-2---Game Two was full of vitriol and hatred as the Senators pulled even with a 3-2 overtime victory---a game frought with post-whistle skirmishes, targeted attacks, and plain open warfare. Now after these two games at Madison Square Garden, the series shifts to Ottawa, with the Sens having taken the Rangers hard-earned home-ice advantage away, and with the intensity expected to rise even higher. The fury Game Two was played at already has exacted a price for both teams. New York's Carl Hagelin was suspended by the NHL three games for his elbowing major penalty against Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, and Senators enforcer Matt Carkner was suspended one game for his attack on Brian Boyle early in the first period. Clearly this "trade off" hurts the Rangers more than it does Ottawa since Hagelin has been playing excellent hockey on the Blueshirts' top line alongside Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, while Carkner is an extra player---scratched in Game One---used solely as an enforcer or intimidating presence. John Tortorella will likely have to juggle several line combinations to make up for Hagelin's loss, and the head coach must decide if rookie Chris Kreider---just signed a week ago---or the rugged John Scott will take place Hagelin's spot in the lineup. No matter the personnel the Rangers must find a way to control the tempo of the game better, and convert more consistently on their scoring chances. Also more production from it's power play---1-for-8 in the series including a failed five-minute opportunity in Game Two---is another must for New York. It is not yet known if Alfredsson will be able to play tonight. Though he left the ice midway through the second period of Game Two and did not return after Hagelin's elbow, reports from the Canadian capital state Alfredsson might be able to play this evening.
Rangers-Derek Stepan: While Brian Boyle was targeted repeatedly by Ottawa's big men in Game Two---and attacked by Matt Carkner---so, too, was Derek Stepan. The Sens took repeated runs at Stepan throughout the contest and would rough him up after whistles, clearly trying to throw the talented center off of his game. Stepan is without a point in the first two games, and on Sunday John Tortorella had him centering the fourth line in practice. The Rangers need offensive production from Stepan, including improved play from him on the power play, in order to win this series.
Senators-Chris Neil: After a fairly quiet Game One performance, Neil was noticeable every shift he was on the ice in Saturday's second game of this series. Neil agitated constantly---with Derek Stepoan being his favorite target, fought Brian Boyle, played a solid game in his own end, and scored the game-winning goal in overtime. A major veteran pest, Neil was a big part of Ottawa's Game Two victory.
"Both teams were hitting (in Game Two). That's playoff hockey, and it's hockey we've played all year and we know how to play that way. As a series goes on, and as the playoffs go on, that's what you're going to see. And you could feel (the animosity) growing. You keep playing the same team that many times you're going to get that going back and forth with each other. I think that's what the playoffs is all about. That's what makes it exciting, and why you like playing in it so much."-Ryan Callahan
There have been 19 post-season games played in the NHL through Sunday night and the road team has incredibly won 11 of those contests. Los Angeles (against Vancouver) and Philadelphia (vs. Pittsburgh) both started on the road and won the first two games of their series away from home ice. Twice out of three games the winner in the Detroit-Nashville series has been the road team.
The Rangers are seeking their 200th all-time post-season victory tonight. The Rangers are currently 199-216-8 all-time in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 88 of those wins have come on the road where the Blueshirts will play the next two games of this series.
Will the Rangers regain home-ice advantage with a win tonight in Ottawa? Share your prediction below.