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Rangers need to keep aggressive mindset if they want to win

Bobby Bevilacqua

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If the Rangers want to get back to the Finals, they’ll need to come out every night with the “hunters'” mentality, and playing aggressively every night. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

“The hunter becomes the hunted.”

It’s a common expression used in literature, film, and in everyday life that is used to describe the tables being turned, representing the little guy rallying to defeat his aggressor.

But one may not think of it in terms of the NHL playoffs, let alone the New York Rangers. But as the series against the Penguins progresses, this saying keeps showing signs of validity.

Coming into the playoffs, the Rangers were viewed as favorites to get back to the Stanley Cup Final following last year’s run, backed up by the fact that they had the league’s best record, capturing the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time since 1994.

Being “the hunted” is a situation that the Rangers have not been in all that often. In years past, the Blueshirts have embraced the underdog role in the postseason, a role they thrived in last season. Being the favorites to win it all brings a lot of pressure, and it’s uncharted territory for most of the players on this team.

But throughout the season, the Rangers played hard despite having a target on their back for most of the season. Once they clinched the top spot in the league, they began resting players, getting ready for the playoffs to begin.

In Game 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Penguins, it really didn’t look like the Rangers team from the winter months, the team that was skating hard night in and night out.

In the first two games, the Rangers almost looked complacent, playing very comfortably and not really pressing for anything. After a quick goal in the first period of Game 1, and a goal on the power play, they stopped pressuring, opting to sit back on their lead instead.

In Game 2, the Penguins came out much faster and more aggressive, and although the Rangers scored first, the Penguins took over in the second period while the Rangers continued to play without any urgency.

Even though the series was tied at 1 game apiece before last night, many Rangers fans were concerned by how the Rangers were playing. They didn’t look overly concerned or worried, playing as if they would simply coast through the series due to their regular season success. A mentality that was not like the Rangers throughout the year.

Fortunately, they flicked a switch before Game 3, playing with urgency, a win now mentality, and forechecking and hitting hard throughout the game. It was a relief for the fans and like Ryan McDonagh said, “That’s how [the Rangers} got to play for 60 minutes from here on out].”

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Aggressive forechecking and hitting was a big reason for the Rangers’ success in their Game 3 victory over the Penguins. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

By playing aggressively, with their backs against the wall in Game 3, the Rangers were able to aggravate the Pittsburgh Penguins, dominate the first two periods, and come away with a win.

If the Rangers want to advance far in the playoffs and get back to the Stanley Cup Final, they need to continue to play like they did in Game 3. Stay aggressive, keep your foot on the gas pedal, and keep pressing for 60 minutes.

Regular season success means nothing but home ice in the playoffs. Records are reset, and each series is a race to four wins. If the Rangers get hung up on their success in the regular season, they could easily be caught off guard.

By playing like its Game 7 every night, playing a complete 60 minutes, and continuing their aggressive playstyle and forecheck, the Rangers will have a good chance at winning on any given night.

It’s time for the hunters to become the hunted.

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Posted on April 22, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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