- Last Updated: 8:14 AM, April 14, 2012
- Posted: 12:44 AM, April 14, 2012
The diligence that marked the Rangers regular season, matched by the team’s ability to honestly self-evaluate, has carried into the opening round of the playoffs.
Because in addition to the work ethic that punctuated Thursday’s Game 1, 4-2 victory over the Senators, the Rangers’ off-day analysis was spot-on prior to tonight’s Game 2 on Broadway before the series shifts to Ottawa for Games 3 and 4.
Not only was there awareness the Rangers would have to increase their level of play significantly to supersede what everyone expects will be a more complete effort from the Senators, there was recognition the Rangers need to have the puck and play in the Senators’ zone far more than they did in the opener that featured a fair amount of rope-a-dope in the first 30 minutes.
Territorial advantage doesn’t necessarily correlate to victory any more than total yardage does in a football game, but the Rangers don’t want a repeat of Game 1, in which there were nearly twice as many faceoffs (31-16) in their end of the ice as in Ottawa’s.
“If we defend the right way we’re pretty comfortable with the puck in our end but definitely we want to be in their zone a lot more than we were in the first game,” Derek Stepan said following yesterday’s short, up-tempo, upbeat practice. “We want to hang on to the puck a lot more to be able to make plays.
“I think that’s been a key to our success all year.”
Stepan skated between wingers Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan, both of whom were very effective. Asked to evaluate his own performance, Stepan told The Post: “Not great. I think I did some good things but I think I can contribute a little more.”
The Senators’ defense unit is mobile, but appears susceptible to turning the puck over under pressure. The forwards also can be dogged into giveaways, as Jared Cowen was by Carl Hagelin on the forecheck that helped create Marian Gaborik’s goal that made it 2-0 at 16:24 of the second period, and as Nick Foligno was on the forecheck by Hagelin again that led directly to Brad Richards’ 4-0 goal at 2:15 of the third.
“We definitely don’t want to defend as much as we did in the first game because they have guys who can strike pretty quickly if given the opportunity,” said Brian Boyle, whose goal from the slot gave his team a 3-0 lead at 19:06 of the second, during a stretch in which the Rangers scored three times on four shots against Craig Anderson within a span of 5:51. “We want to get in their faces as much as we can.
“When that doesn’t happen as much as we want it to, like the other night, there are always different variables. Maybe we didn’t get good placement when we were sending it in, maybe we had the first guy there but the second guy didn’t close.
“We wanted to send it in, we tried to get the puck out quickly but we were icing it too often and so we were starting in our own end too much,” said Boyle, who took 19 defensive zone draws (winning eight) but none at the other end of the ice.
“The one thing is that when we had some zone time, we scored goals. Cycling is all well and good, but you want to score.”Follow @NYPostsports