In assessing the latest blown two-goal lead in a mind numbing loss in a playoff game for the Rangers against an opponent they are deeper then, here is something to think about. Since coach Alain Vigneault took over, he’s done an admirable job leading this team to the playoffs in his first four years.
With all the success that’s included a Stanley Cup appearance along with a home Game 7 Eastern Conference Final that ended in disappointment also comes some less than impressive results. Saturday’s 5-4 defeat in Game 5 at Ottawa was the fifth time a Vigneault coached Rangers team blew two goal leads before losing in overtime. Here’s what the statistic looked like prior to today’s latest gut wrenching result.
That excludes the wild and wacky Game 2 loss to the Canadiens by a score of 4-3. A game that was similar to Game 5 against the Canadiens in that they led late until the opponent pulled the goalie. In Montreal’s case, they waited until less than 18 seconds were remaining for Alex Radulov to set up Tomas Plekanec. Then Radulov won it late in the first overtime.
Ottawa twice has shown tremendous heart rallying from two-goal deficits. Game 2 was a nightmare scenario with the Blueshirts blowing three two-goal leads before falling 6-5 on Jean-Gabriel Pageau Night. What else would you call giving up four to the 24-year old Ottawa center who doesn’t get the ink of today’s OT hero Kyle Turris or ex-Ranger Derick Brassard, who tied the game in bizarre fashion at 18:34 of the third?
There was a lot wrong. It’s been covered. Vigneault should’ve had his best defensively responsible forward in Jesper Fast out over Tanner Glass. He didn’t. He went with Marc Staal, who struggled all day to keep up, along with Brendan Smith. Staal was on his knees when the puck deflected off Glass and Smith before squeaking past Henrik Lundqvist, who was culpable. He clearly had an off day and needs to redeem himself. And no. The Turris winner wasn’t offside. Learn the damn rules.
Regarding the Stanley Cup Final against the Kings, it’s well documented. Vigneault chose to sit back and the bigger Kings were only too happy to oblige by cutting off the neutral zone, dictating possession and peppering Lundqvist with shots until he finally caved. There also was the controversial non-interference on Dwight King. One that still mystifies. Had they taken one of the three games at Staples Center, it says here that series goes seven. Who knows what happens.
That team was miles better than this one. Especially with Staal and Dan Girardi much older and less consistent. Even Ryan McDonagh has a lot of wear and tear. Don’t forget how good Staal and former partner Anton Stralman were as a second pair. It was almost like having two top pairs. The Rangers clearly lack that now. Along with Vigneault’s reluctance to play polished rookie Skjei down the stretch, it’s no wonder they blow such games.
The question is can they come back. Yes, they can. They did it against the Capitals in 2013 under John Tortorella. Similar kind of series. Lose the first two in D.C.. Win the next two at MSG. Lose Game 5 in excruciating fashion. Win Game 6 and then dominate Game 7 with Lundqvist at his best. There are enough players left from that roster who know it can be done.
I’m not giving up like some of our fans who would rather bury the team and plan the off-season parade. This team never makes things easy. My pick was Rangers in 7. They can still do it.
Nice to see the Capitals and “3rd liner” Alex Ovechkin show a pulse in their Game 5 win over the Crosby Pens. Why on earth did Pittsburgh play him? Never mind.