Plenty has gone wrong for the New York Rangers in the first four games of this best of seven series. It could be too late for the Blueshirts to adjust to the multiple advantages the Penguins have displayed compiling a 3-1 lead.
The body language was all that was needed when looking at the New York Rangers last night as the second period concluded. They were beaten down mentally, by the Penguin’s speed, in goal by a shell shocked Igor Shesterkin and behind the bench, where Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has outdueled Gerrard Gallant in the four games played to this point.
How did things get so bad so fast? Believe it or not, it began at the end of the regular season when the Rangers dropped three out of the last four regular-season games, and including the playoffs, they have now lost six out of the last eight games they have played.
Penguin’s Top Line Outperforming the Ranger’s Number 1 Unit
There is a huge discrepancy between the team’s two top lines. For the Penguins, the line of Guentzel-Crosby-Rust has been a force to deal with for the Rangers.
The Pen’s top line has combined for 20 points and eight goals. Sidney Crosby leads the team with nine points (2G) followed by Guentzel with six points (5G) and Rust with five points (2G).
The Ranger’s numbers one line has combined for 12 points even distributed with four points each for Kreider, Zibaenjad, and Vatrano. Kreider has netted two goals as has Vatrano. Zibanejad is still looking for his first goal of the playoffs with the team heading into game five Wednesday night.
Artemi Panarin leads the team with five points (2G) and Andrew Copp has the lead in goals scored with three.
The absence of Barclay Goodrow is unmeasurable for the team. His injury, the second in two weeks, has changed the dynamic of the fourth line. The coaching staff recognized this with the substitution of John Brodzinski for Dylan Hunt. The only lineup change from game three went pretty much unnoticed.
Goodrow is expected to be out the remainder of this series and then he will be re-evaluated.
The Defense has probably played its worse four-game set than at any time this season. Ryan Lindgren has missed theist three games and it’s causing the coaching staff fits while the Penguins seem to be having their way with the Rangers.
It’s best to address the elephant in the room, Patrick Nemeth has struggled mightily in this series. He has taken four minor penalties, had a turnover in game three that resulted in theme winning goal being scored (albeit a soft goal by Alexandar Georgiev), and has not looked comfortable on the ice against the speed of the Penguins have shown.
Adam Fox has been unable to show much offensive spark since Lindgren was injured. He has been paired with Justin Braun, and the two have done fair considering the borage of play in their own end.
The Trouba/Miller pairing is the only pairing intact from the regular season and has not been at their top-level themselves. Turnovers, missed shots, and checking assignments have been the par for the course up to this point and this pairing has been no exception.
Igor Shesterkin was pulled again on Monday night. He has given up 10 goals in the three periods he has appeared in this playoff. He has a 4.25 GAA along with a .905 save percentage.
His struggle is real but the team defense has hung him out to dry for most of the series. Surprisingly he has not looked comfortable in goal aside from the game two win.
For those who may believe there could be a goalie controversy brewing, Gallant put that issue to bed during last night’s presser,
“He’ll be back in there ready to win on Wednesday”
The Rangers find their backs against the wall now. Down 3-1, they will need to win the next three games in order to advance to round two. A tough task to endure with so many issues in front of them.
Defenseman Jacob Trouba talked about the next game in front of the team following Monday’s loss,
“I don’t think you’re going to find a guy who’s happy with that performance,” Jacob Trouba said. “There’s really not a whole lot to say passed that. I think we know we’ve got to be better, to a man. We’re going to show up to Game 5, put that behind us and be ready to play.”
Follow Frank Curto on Twitter at @RangerProud