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Rangers look to save their season tonight in Tampa Bay

Bobby Bevilacqua

Kevin hayes 5-24

The Rangers are back in action tonight in Tampa, needing a win in order to save their season and force a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Here we are again. A familiar spot for Rangers fans over the past few seasons. The same situation the Rangers found themselves in against the Capitals. After a tough 2-0 loss at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers have their backs against the wall, facing elimination at Amalie Arena tonight in Game 6.

Although the game is obviously huge and very meaningful, players in the locker room had an aura of confidence, with Henrik Lundqvist reminding everyone that, “We’ve been here before,” and Marc Staal saying that “we’re a tough out.”

That they are. Since the start of the 2012 playoffs, the Rangers have played in 17 elimination games, posting a 14-3 record in those games, including winning three straight elimination games against the Capitals in the last round. They’ve been in these games before, and know how to handle themselves.

The Rangers are also 6-0 in their last Games 6 or 7, allowing just seven goals in those six games. They’re also 8-1 in their last nine, and 11-3 in their last 14 Games 6 or 7 since the start of the 2012 playoffs. They’ve won three of their last five series in which they’ve trailed three games to two following a Game 5 loss, including three of those series wins since the start of the 2012 playoffs. There is reason for their confidence, and it’s because they’ve had success in these situations before.

Rangers celebrate an overtime win 5-13

In the second series against the Washington Capitals, the Rangers won three straight elimination games and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Tonight’s game takes place at Amalie Arena, where the Lightning have had a lot of success this season. They posted the best home record in the NHL, winning 32 games at home during the regular season. But the Rangers are very capable of winning on the road, posting 28 wins away from Madison Square Garden, the most wins in the NHL, including a 4-3 record in the playoffs.

The Lightning have taken a 3-2 series lead thanks to their explosive, and opportunistic, offensive game. I say opportunistic because they’ve taken advantage of nearly every mistake and opportunity presented to them. In Game 5, neither team really had many fantastic chances, but Tampa Bay was able two score on their two best chances. That was the difference.

What was also odd was that the Lightning were able to win while playing the Rangers’ type of game. The defensive effort from the Lightning was impressive, forcing the Rangers to the perimeter and not allowing them to get many good chances. Ben Bishop comfortably made 26 saves, and the Lightning and New York’s offense was stifled.

Steven Stamkos continues to be the offensive catalyst, scoring a goal in each of the last four games, and totaling 7 points (4-3-7) in that span. He’s becoming more effective with every game that passes, and is dangerous on the top line with Alex Killorn, boasting great passing skills and a pinpoint accurate shot. The Rangers have been better at stopping “The Triplets” lately, but now they have to find out how to stop Stamkos too.

If the Rangers want to extend their season, Henrik Lundqvist will need to be at his best. It’s not fair to rely on one player, but Henrik has been the backbone of the Rangers in these playoffs, and in years past. He’s also been the team’s best player in elimination games over the past four seasons.

henrik lundqvist save 5-24

Henrik Lundqvist has a history of performing well in elimination games, and playing at his best when the team needs him most. The Rangers need that player tonight. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

In the 17 elimination games since the start of the 2012 playoffs, Lundqvist has posted a 14-3 record with a 1.39 GAA and a .956 save percentage, with two shutouts. In the nine games that the Rangers have faced elimination since the 2014 playoffs, he is 8-1 with a 1.36 GAA and a .961 save percentage. In his last six starts in either a Game 6 or Game 7, Lundqvist has a 6-0 record along with a 1.13 GAA and a .965 save percentage, with one shutout.

All of those stats are very encouraging, and he really lives for these types of games. Lundqvist, like the Rangers, thrives in adversity and performs his best when the Rangers need him most. And the Rangers really need him tonight.

The Rangers’ second line could have a very big impact in tonight’s game. Derek Stepan has tallied a point in six of the last seven games that the Rangers have faced elimination, with a goal and six assists in those games. Jesper Fast has been a nice surprise in these playoffs, posting three goals and three assists in 17 games. He’s fit in nicely on the second line, adding defensive responsibility and speed to the line.

But perhaps Chris Kreider is the most impactful player on that line. Just 24 years old, he has already played in 58 playoff games, establishing himself as an important, and clutch, postseason performer. He’s scored 18 playoff goals since making his postseason debut in Game 3 against the Ottawa Senators already put him in 11th place on the Rangers’ all time playoff goal list. The only Rangers to score more game winning goals in the playoffs than Kreider is Mark Messier.

chris kreider 5-24

Chris Kreider has been one of the best players in this season’s playoffs, scoring clutch goals, acting as a strong netfront presence, and a physical force. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

After scoring four goals against the Capitals, he has two goals and two assists against Lightning. He leads the team with 70 hits in the playoffs. He’s done everything. And the Rangers will need his clutch performance tonight.

It’s a must win Game 6 in Tampa tonight. The Rangers, facing elimination, will need to play their best game of the season, play strong defense, and convert on their best chances. The Rangers don’t have to win two games in a row. They just have to win one. One game at a time.

The Rangers and the Lightning will faceoff at Amalie Arena at 8 PM. The game will be broadcasted on NBCSN.

EXPECTED LINES

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-JT Miller

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Jesper Fast

Carl Hagelin-Kevin Hayes-Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-James Sheppard

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Keith Ynadle-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on May 26, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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