Rangers need to reverse trend by winning Game 6
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
It's time for the Rangers to end this.
This series with the Flyers, first and foremost.
The results say this is a coin flip, that neither team has much of an advantage or much in the way of momentum from game to game.
But the games themselves tell you this series is pretty lopsided. The Flyers have spent much of the five games puzzling over ways to beat Henrik Lundqvist with the perfect shot or the extra pass, leaving them averaging only 24.6 shots per game and with a whole host of missed opportunities, including Sunday's consecutive power-play failures in the opening 10 minutes.
It's also time to end the absurd run of playoff futility in games in which the Rangers have a chance to go for the throat. In the last four postseasons, they have lost 11 consecutive playoff games when leading a series.
It's a mind-boggling, awful statistic, one that covers a span of different players, different coaches and different opponents. The only constant since 2008 is that the Rangers haven't found that killer instinct.
People can blame John Tortorella if they choose. His style certainly was one of consistent, numbing repetition -- block, swarm, clear, repeat. It was hard to know if Tortorella's Rangers teams had the extra gear a team needs to succeed in the postseason.
Torts is gone, but his consistency lives on. This Rangers-Flyers series may have promised a bloodbath to those with long hockey memories around these parts, but the only real nonsense came from Dan Carcillo in Game 3 -- and that was on a goal celebration, of all things, not from some sort of madman routine.
This has been a series of speed for the Rangers. J.T. Miller's addition to the lineup Sunday gave the Rangers more; Hal Gill's addition to the Philadelphia defense gave them considerably less. It made a Flyers defense that has had a few good moments far, far less mobile.
That was a curious move by Flyers coach Craig Berube, given that the Rangers had been hemming in and hounding the Philly D before Game 5. But he didn't have many options to replace Nicklas Grossmann.
The Rangers have been the better team throughout. It's been quite clear.
Ray Emery was sharp in Game 2 and the Flyers surged in the second period, then sat back and smothered the Rangers effectively in the third to win.
In Game 4, Steve Mason was the difference, with a few scattered good showings by Flyers such as Braydon Coburn.
In five playoff games, Marty St. Louis has nearly equaled his point total from 19 regular-season games. Rick Nash, while still a bit flummoxed in the offensive zone, has morphed into the sort of two-way player Tortorella would have loved. Mats Zuccarello is as big a pest as anyone on the ice for either team, plus he's been effective on offense.
The Flyers' stars are still missing. Claude Giroux scored his first goal of the series with 1:29 to go in Game 5 to briefly make things interesting, but he continues to cruise the perimeter and look for openings through traffic rather than just slapping pucks at Lundqvist, as his coach would prefer.
After each of the first five games, the Rangers have talked of being effective, of needing a tweak here or there. The Flyers have promised to play better, knowing full well they've been where they need to be for roughly 45 minutes of the 300 played thus far.
So now the Rangers need that next level. They need the killer instinct they could never find with Tortorella, which hampered their efforts two springs ago and left them worn down once they got to the Devils in the conference finals.
One of two battered teams, the Penguins or Blue Jackets, would await. There is an opportunity here, coming Tuesday night in Philly, to be a team that can finish off a lesser opponent before a Game 7.
"We have to have the killer instinct to get in there and try to get a win,'' Marc Staal said.