The Rangers play their biggest game of the season and perhaps biggest game since the lockout on Thursday night. A win over the Senators and progress to the next round could be the springboard to a successful post season. Or Friday morning could be the start of golf season.
With that said, should John Tortorella shorten his bench in the series finale? Given his tendencies to do so during his tenure with the Rangers will we see the Rangers coach double shift the top lines? This comes back in part, once again, to the potential part Chris Kreider may have to play in this game.
Despite scoring a huge goal in game six, being praised by the coaching staff after the game and generally, playing his best game as a pro Kreider still only played just over ten minutes. With a do-or-die game on Thursday any mistake, any slip in defensive assignments could mean the end of the Rangers season.
This morning Dave discussed Stu Bickel’s declining role and the potential introduction of Steve Eminger. Bickel is another example of Tortorella not wanting certain players in certain situations. The fact that he’s playing 5 blueliners right now is another example of shortening the bench. Given how tightly this series has been played a blow-out victory for either side is unlikely. In part because of the closeness of each game Bickel is routinely playing absoltely minimal ice time right now.
Kreider is likely to see plenty of shifts early on but will he be a victim when Tortorella comes to the crunch time of the series? What can reasonably be expected of a 20 year old rookie? Kreider is not the only player to play limited time up front. Artem Anisimov played less than ten minutes while Mitchell and Rupp played minimally in the game 6 victory.
Tortorella has players that he trusts such as Ryan Callahan and an impressive-in-game-six Brad Richards. There’s a good chance the core of forwards Torts trusts most will see an increased level of ice time in the Garden showdown.
The Rangers will need another quality performance from Derek Stepan in game seven. They’ll need another all action game from Brandon Prust and they’ll need Marian Gaborik to step up – compared to his recent performances. Expect them to have every opportunity to do so as Torts (potentially) sticks to his select few.