Photo Credit: US Presswire
A lot of noise has been made about how coach John Tortorella deploys his defensemen. Most of this is due to the coach playing five defensemen during last year’s playoff run, but some new noise has been made recently when Steve Eminger was benched for half of Game Four. But a lot of this is just noise, and the Rangers don’t even have a defenseman in the top-five in playoff ice time among defensemen.
In fact, only Dan Girardi is int he top-ten in ice time, averaging 26:53 of ice time per game, good for seventh highest in the playoffs. You read that correctly, not a single Ranger averages over 27 minutes of ice time. Next on the list –as expected– is Ryan McDonagh, who averages 24:57 of ice time, good for #17 on that list. This makes perfect sense, as this is the Rangers top defensive unit, and they should be getting a good portion of the minutes. When you have stud defensemen, you play them.
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Michael St. Croix (4th 2011) and Sam Noreau (6th 2011) were pushed to the brink of elimination in the WHL Finals and QMJHL Finals, respectively. St. Croix’s Edmonton Oil Kings dropped Game Four to the Portland Winterhawks 2-1, and now trail in the series 3-1. Noreau’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar were routed 7-4 by the Halifax Mooseheads in Game Four of the QMJHL Finals, and now trail the series 3-1. Below are the scoring lines for both St. Croix and Noreau.
- Michael St. Croix: 0 G, 0 A, +1, 2 PIM
- Sam Noreau: 1 G, 0 A, -1, 0 PIM
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
Last night, Marc Staal was a last-minute scratch from Game Four, forcing Steve Eminger back into the lineup. In Games One and Two, Eminger got enough ice time to give the others a rest, playing 10 minutes in Game One and 14 minutes in Game Two. After sitting out Game Three (with Staal in the lineup), Eminger played just six minutes in Game Four, and didn’t see the ice after a gaffe in the offensive zone that led to the Caps first goal.
Perhaps that is just a one game benching, much like we had seen with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik this season. But we’ve also seen the other end of the spectrum (see: Bickel, Stu) where repeated gaffes led to barely five minutes of playing time per game. Eminger has seen his fair share of benching, but he has also seen top-four minutes under Torts.
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Game Four was one of the best games the Rangers have played all year. They came out strong, played a physical game, played good defense, and generated a lot of scoring chances. The game itself was very exciting as well, but the Rangers appeared to trade chances with a Caps team that is much more skilled than them. This is what caused the Rangers to blow their initial two goal lead and almost blow their second two goal lead. They eventually held on in a frantic final three minutes to even the series.
These were two HUGE wins for the Rangers on home ice to even the series. Any loss at home would have all but clinched the series for the Caps. Now, the Rangers head back to Washington with a lot of momentum heading into Game Five.
Rangers 1, Caps 0
Braden Holtby, who is usually good with the puck, handled the puck at the boards and tried to clear the puck up the middle. Taylor Pyatt knocked down the clearing attempt, and it went straight to Carl Hagelin with Holtby out of the net. Hagelin’s shot was blocked, but Brad Richards was able to put it into the open net. There is no picture on this because A) It’s not needed, and B) They were blurry. Sorry about that.
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The Rangers won Game Three, which was a must-win. Funny thing is that Game Four is also a must-win. The Rangers can ill-afford to head to Washington down 3-1, so tonight is another game where the Rangers need to get their W. The good news is that Ryane Clowe is back, in place of the injured Darroll Powe. This means that for the first time, the Rangers have all of their key players dressing (Powe notwithstanding). The crowd was raucous on Monday, and they need to be even rowdier tonight.
Be sure to catch up on everything you need to know for this series:
Game Three goal breakdown
Game Two goal breakdown
Game One goal breakdown
How the Caps will match up lines
Keys for Ranger success
Special teams may decide series
Scouting Braden Holtby
Previewing the Caps systems
Caps will be a tough series for the Rangers
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Michael St. Croix scored the only goal for the Edmonton Oil Kings in their 3-1 Game Three loss to the Portland Winterhawks. The Oil Kings now trail the Winterhawks 2-1 in the WHL Finals.
Meanwhile in the QMJHL, Sam Noreau and the Baie-Comeau Drakkar finally took a game from the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL Finals. Baie-Comeau now trails Halifax 2-1 after their 3-1 Game Three victory. Noreau was held without a point in the contest, but registered two hits.
Per Dan Rosen, Ryane Clowe said there is a “good chance” he plays tonight. Clowe, who hasn’t skated in the playoffs, will likely take the place of the injured Darroll Powe. Powe appeared to suffer a concussion in the Game Three victory, as he left in the first period and did not return. Powe, who suffered a concussion earlier this season, is likely done for the playoffs if this news is true.
Henrik Lundqvist has been named a finalist for the Vezina trophy again, for the fifth time in his career. Lundqvist won the award last year, and will look to be the first back to back winner since Martin Brodeur (06-07, 07-08). The other finalists are Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus) and Antii Niemi (SJ).
Thanks to LAR again for this.
Again big thanks to Loyal Anonymous Reader (LAR) for the above graphic, which shows the goal locations for each of Derek Stepan’s 18 goals this season. As you can tell from the picture, Stepan’s game is to get to the front of the net for deflections, rebounds, and otherwise dirty goals. He did this for 16 of his 18 goals, and I’d bet that only Ryan Callahan can match him in goals from the front of the net.
What is interesting to see is that all of his powerplay goals have come from in front of the net, despite the fact that he has seen time on the off-wing and on the point. It’s one of those signs that shows how effective he is in front with his hands. Cally will screen the goalie and collect rebounds, but Stepan adds a great ability to deflect pucks on net. In a theoretical 1-3-1, you’d want Cally in front for the dirty work and Stepan as the high slot man for deflections and passes.
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This was a wildly entertaining game tonight at Madison Square Garden. The Capitals came hard down low and created a lot of pressure on our d-men. Hank had to make some strong saves early and often to keep the boys in the game. For the Rangers, we were strong on the boards and were able to make plays all over the offensive zone in the 2nd half thanks to some very key pinches by our defense.
With four hard fought goals tonight for the Rangers, hopefully this is the spark that gets their 5-on-5 offense back where it needs to be. Although the Rangers were just 1 for 6 on the power play, I thought we looked much better in that regard. John Moore in particular was very decisive on the blueline and he was able to get hard, low shots on net. That’s all you can ask for at this point.
On to the goals…Dave’s got the first half…
Caps 1, Rangers 0
Nothing can be done here. Hockey happens.
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