Remember when Rangers fans pined for postseason play after a five year hiatus? What the hell were we thinking? Game three reinforced just how much fun and how heartbreaking playoff hockey can be for fans and players alike.
Positives: Chris Drury’s trade deadline acquisitions continue to payoff major dividends as Vatrano and Copp continue to play well through three games. Vatrano scored the Rangers 2nd goal of the game and Copp tied the game up before the end of the 2nd period to cap off a tremendous twenty minute effort for the Blueshirts.
Even though you can argue that Artemi Panarin has yet to play his best hockey so far this postseason, he yet again scored a big goal while continuing to drive the teams offense. It also doesn’t hurt that Panarin’s now registered four points in his last two games after being held off the scoresheet in game one.
There’s not much more we can say about how we’ve seen “the kid line” just take off and grow throughout three playoff games. Lafreniere-Chytil-Kakko have been an absolute force for Gerard Gallant thus far and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. The two biggest pluses have been the play of Kakko and Lafreniere as they’ve been excellent at creating chances and spending a boatload of time in the offensive zone. While the trio only has one goal to show so far, they keep playing the way they are and they’ll be a difference maker moving forward.
A lot has been made of the Rangers youth and inexperience but they’ve been able to play well and hang tough with a battle tested club. After trailing 4-1 after a terrible period of hockey we could’ve seen this young club wither away and just get embarrassed and that just didn’t happen. The Rangers found a new gear and found a way to battle back and put up 4 goals of their own before falling short. That’s a highly encouraging sign for this group moving forward.
Negatives: Special teams which has been the hallmark of this club this year was a horrendous let down in game three. The NYR had numerous opportunities to seize momentum in the third period and just failed to capitalize on their chances. Conversely the Rangers PK which was good in games one and two was a major let down in the first period helping hand the Pens their early lead.
Igor Shesterkin did not have a great showing in his first ever road playoff game being yanked after the first period. While it wasn’t all on Shesterkin’s shoulders for the NYR’s horrendous start it didn’t help that Shesterkin wasn’t his usual tremendous self.
Mika Zibanejad has been a major disappointment so far in a variety of ways. In last night’s game specifically, the inability to provide offense on the power-play or come up with a key face-off win hurt the club. While he has put up 3 points so far, not being able to get on e in the goal column against a fringe NHL starter in Louie Domingue is just beyond puzzling.
This has been a theme in my first two articles but Patrik Nemeth is the biggest negative yet again. On the Pens game winning goal in the third, Nemeth bizarrely decided to try and take Malkin’s body instead of playing the puck at his feet in the corner and Heinen cashed in. Why a veteran d-man would make that kind of play during a playoff series in the third period of a tied game is beyond me. That is the wrong play to make ten out of ten times at any point but during a playoff game that kind of mistake is amplified. Regardless of whether or not Lindgren can come back during game 4, Nemeth needs to be in the pressbox for either Hajek, can’t believe I’m saying that, or Zac Jones.
Honorable Mention: I haven’t hidden my displeasure for watching Alexander Georgiev in articles or the 30 on Broadway podcast this year. However, for him to come in and play well in the second period and most of the third in an unexpected relief effort to give the NYR a chance to steal a game deserves respect. The fifth goal wasn’t a good goal to give up but again that’s more on Nemeth for a horrendous decision than Georgie. Stick taps to Georgie on a commendable effort.
While the NYR trail in this series, it’s still a long series and the Pens have a long way to go before closing things out. Shesterkin will not have another game like he did in game three. The Rangers have also shown their ability to handle adversity and ability to be able to come back. I expect a highly spirited effort from the Blueshirts Monday night in game four and for this series to come back to New York tied at two.