Yet again the Rangers find themselves in the unenviable position of having lost the first two games of their best-of-seven playoff series, returning home to The Garden absolutely needing a win to keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive. They succeeded in doing so in their first round series against the Washington Capitals, winning Game Three by the score of 4-3, running off four victories in the final five games in order to advance to this current semifinal series with the Boston Bruins.
To turn the same trick again will not be easy, especially playing a deeper team this time around, one that has exploded twice on the Rangers---turning evenly-played games decidedly in their favor. In the series opener on Thursday, the Rangers and Bruins played on even par through 60 minutes, only to see the Bruins dominate---to use John Tortorella's word---the Rangers in overtime before Brad Marchand's game-winning goal. In Game Two on Sunday, the Rangers believe they had the better of the play for most of the first two periods---in particular during the middle stanza---before Boston seized control late in that second period and throughout the third period.
So the Rangers not only need a strong start Tuesday at The Garden, they need to sustain that strong play through the entire game. Tortorella said on Monday that he believes the mistakes his team made on several of Boston's goals on Sunday were mistakes his players almost never make---thus are easily correctable. While those words are somewhat comforting, there is no question that the Rangers need to defend the Bruins transition game better, and need to possess the puck much more in order to limit Boston's time with it.
Henrik Lundqvist had not allowed as many as five goals in a playoff game since Game Six of the 2009 Quarterfinals. He acknowledged that he needs to be better, though his teammates took much of the blame on their collective shoulders for their play in front of him. Lundqvist did admit on Monday that his left shoulder---which he was flexing in the third period on Sunday---is sore from a fall he took in Game Two, but that it will not hinder his performance moving forward.
While the Rangers received some healthy reinforcements for Game Three against Washington to help bolster their attack, that will not be the case against Boston on Tuesday. Marc Staal and Darroll Powe both were able to skate with the extras and scratches at Monday's practice, but neither is ready for a return to the lineup. And Ryane Clowe also remains out injured.
Meanwhile Boston---which has seen all three of its rookie defensemen: Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, and Matt Bartkowski---handle themselves admirably in the first two games of this series, might be able to get one or more of its injured veteran d-men back in Game Three. Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden both have been practicing and are nearing returns, though Andrew Ferrence is behind the two with his recovery from injury.
Krug has been particularly outstanding in the first two games---scoring his first two career post-season goals and tallying three points. He was one of four Bruins to noct htwo points in Sunday's win---Boston's third in a row in these playoffs, dating to their Game Seven triumph over Toronto.
Improved play from Rick Nash has bolstered the Rangers in this series, though a sagging power play continues to weight the Blueshirts down. The Rangers are 0-for-8 with the man advanatge in this series, and just 2-for-36 on the power play during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both of those goals, scored against the Capitals in the first round, were scored at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers are 3-0 at The Garden in this post-season, and were 16-6-2 at home during the regular season, playing and winning much more consistently then they did on the road. The Blueshirst have to hope that will give them an extra edge when they host a growingly confident Bruins team in Game Three on Tuesday.
Can the Rangers avoid a 3-0 series deficit for the second series in a row by winning on home ice? Share your predictions below.