This article was co-authored with Jakob Lucas.
After going up 2-0 in the series, the Rangers have taken a huge step backwards. They lost game three which was expected after they couldn’t convert on any of their six power-play opportunities. The power-play unit has gone completely silent at the worst possible time, which has led the Devils to even the series.
Game four was very similiar, the Rangers couldn’t create any offense on the power play and were outplayed.
Game 3 and 4 blues
Mika Zibanejad has been shut down by the Devils, not allowing him any shots on goal or even opportunities for his lethal one-timer. He plays a crucial role in the power play and is a big reason why that unit has been horrendous.
Rangers’ head coach Gerard Gallant has also curiously used Zibanejad in the bumper spot near the goal line for the past few games. This marks a switch from his usual spot at the top of the circle which enables him to use his deadly one-timers. Though reports say that Zibanejad will be back in his office at the top of the circle for game 5.
Patrick Kane still looks to be finding his identity with the team and, other than the game two performance, has also been quiet. If there’s one thing New York needs to win this series it’s for Kane to heat up. It will give the Rangers countless amount of opportunities, and swing the momentum in their favor.
Kane’s good buddy and former Blackhawks teammate Artemis Panarin has been very quiet too. The Rangers saw this in the first round of the 2022 playoffs as well before Panarin stepped up and delivered the game 7, OT winner to knock out the Pittsburgh Penguins. Like last year, the Rangers are nearing their put-up or shut-up moment. Panarin needs to come alive and meet the moment again.
My biggest concern is what Gerard Gallant said in an interview following game four. Gallant said he will not make changes to the current unit, as they received many good looks but just couldn’t capitalize. Now I’ll be the first to admit that the power play hasn’t been the only thing holding the Rangers, it’s their lack of clean hockey. The giveaways and forced passes need to end because the Devils have taken advantage of every single mistake.
I do believe that the Rangers need to make changes on that unit, nothing detrimental, but it’s come to a point where it can’t get worse. The Rangers’ performance at home was pathetic, and it showed as the Garden was the quietest it’s been in a long time.
Keys for game 5
Play clean hockey
It is crucial that the Rangers stop forcing opportunities, rather than being patient. This is how the Devils have crawled back into the series, capitalizing on the Rangers’ mistakes leading to breakaway goals. There’s only so much Igor Shesterkin can do, they need to play smart and take pressure off of him.
Attack Akira Schmid
Since entering the net in game three, he’s been excellent and has continued to make tremendous saves, and hasn’t been phased by the Rangers’ man advantage. This needs to change, quickly. New York has to be more aggressive and shoot the puck more creating more faceoffs in the offensive zone, which leads to more scoring chances.
Drive the net
While Schmid has been great in net so far for the Devils, he hasn’t necessarily made the cleanest saves. He has frequently failed to smother the puck leading to rebounds net front. However, the Rangers have curiously stopped attacking the net and allowed the Devils to clear these loose pucks with ease. The Rangers’ lone goal in game four came when Vincent Trocheck went net front and scooped up a rebound that Schmid failed to cover. The Rangers need to get bodies to the net and be ready to capitalize on the rebound opportunities Schmid has been giving up.