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Three Reasons Why the Rangers are Down 0-3

by Photo of Sam Cohen

After a tough road getting to the Finals, the Rangers are on the verge of being swept. Here’s why.

Three Reasons Why the Rangers are Down 0-3

With the Yankees playing average baseball, the Knicks entering a rebuilding stage, and the Jets and Giants failing to make the playoffs, many New Yorkers have rallied behind the New York Rangers, a team playing their best hockey at exactly the right time. A solid regular season team with 96 points, the Rangers made the playoffs as a wildcard team hoping to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals after a loss in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year to the Bruins. 

After beating the Flyers, the heavily-favored Penguins, and the gritty Canadiens, the Rangers may have surprised even themselves when they found themselves matched up against the Los Angeles Kings in the playoffs. And while they were once again the underdogs, the team had a lot of momentum and the City on its side. The Boys in Blue had a realistic chance of raising the Stanley Cup for the first time in 20 years.

Things have changed since the clock turned to zeroes in the Rangers defeat of the Canadiens. The team is down 3-0 in the Finals and things are not looking good. The Kings are clearly a better, more well-rounded team and the Rangers have had trouble stopping the L.A. momentum. But the series hasn't actually been all that lopsided. The Rangers lost the first two games in L.A. in overtime after giving up leads in regulation time in both games. They could have definitely won those two games, but were nonetheless down two games to none before coming back to New York and dropping Game 3. So if this series is a lot more even than it may seem by looking at the score of the series, why haven't the Rangers won a game? Here are three of the biggest reasons:

1) The Power Play: After going 0 for 6 last night, the team is now 1 for 14 in power play chances during this series. The power play has actually been so bad that head coach Alain Vigneault benched Rick Nash, one of hockey's best power play scorers, during power play chances in the series before last night's game. Brad Richards, who Vigneault plays more than anyone else on the man advantage, has four power play points in 23 games in these playoffs, which would make him tied for sixth if he were on the Kings.

After scoring on 18% of its power plays during the regular season, the Rangers are scoring at just a 12.6% clip on the power play during the playoffs. Since games 1 and 2 were so close, the Rangers could very well be leading this series if Nash, Brad Richards, and the rest of the power play crew could finish more of their power play chances

2) Bad Luck: The Rangers are down and this series and while one could argue that they should have won Game 2 if not for the refs blatantly missing a goalie interference after L.A.'s Dwight King fell on top of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, they are down 3-0 and there is no excuse for that. Here is the GIF evidence:

But hockey is a sport in which luck plays a bigger role than in most other sports. The puck can take bad bounces, can deflect weirdly or unexpectedly into the goal, and can hit off the post but not go in. Jeff Carter's goal with 0.7 seconds left last night was just one example of bad luck, as if Dan Girardi had blocked the shot with another part of his body or arrived a fraction of a second earlier or later, it would have been 0-0 going into the second period. But the lucky deflection beat Lundqvist, the first of three Kings goals last night, all of which came off of deflections. 

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has been great, especially in last night's game, but the Rangers continuously come inches from scoring, hitting the post a number of times throughout the series. Lundqvist put it best after last night's game when he said that in these games, "Every little play matters, and it feels like they had the luck so far in these three games." The Rangers must finish their scoring chances in order to win, but the Kings have had some puck luck.

3) Rick Nash's Scoring Drought: Rick Nash was the Rangers' leading scorer during the regular season and has made a name for himself as one of the best two-way players in the game right now. He is a great finisher, passer, and defender, while giving the Rangers minutes on both the power play and penalty kill. But ultimately, Rick Nash will be judged by the amount of goals he has. 

The Rangers brought him in to spark their offense and he hasn't done so, with just three goals in 21 games this postseason. Though he has been valuable as a penalty killer and defender and has even racked up 15 shots this series, he has not had a point in the Finals and has been dreadful on the power play. Nash needs to step up his game offensively or else New York will write him off as the next A-Rod, a player who has all the tools to be dominant but chokes in the playoffs (minus taking steroids and being a diva).

Largely because of these three reasons, the Rangers are on the verge of being eliminated. Alain Vigneault must find a way to put a spark in the power play and Rick Nash must figure out how to put some of his shots past Jonathan Quick or else the Rangers will not get that Finals win that has escaped them for 20 years. While it sure looks like they will lose the series, both teams know that anything can happen. Just ask the Kings, who were down 3-0 to the Sharks earlier in these playoffs and managed to win four straight.

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