The Rangers were dominated the first two periods in Saturday's contest, which followed a sub-par performance at New Jersey's Prudential Center in Game 3. While the Devils are almost certainly scratching their heads about how to solve King Henrik, the Rangers need to take advantage.
In order to gain a 3-1 advantage in the series, there are several key changes that Rangers' coach John Tortorella needs to make heading into Game 4.
Tortorella is among the best in the league at adjusting his game plan during a game. That being said, I think it is time to take a harder stance on Marian Gaborik.
While I am not one to judge a star's performance solely on scoring, Gaborik has done little right in the series and looks tentative. He had a great opportunity in Game 3 and fanned on the shot, something he rarely does. The giveaways and the lack of burst are not there, and it is time to give others an opportunity.
Gaborik should be inserted as the right winger on the second line with Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan. Gaborik will ignite the play of Callahan and Stepan by opening up space on the ice. He has solid chemistry with Stepan, and Callahan will be able to protect him better than Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin.
There was no better forward on the ice for the Rangers in Game 3 than Chris Kreider. His maturity has noticeably grown after playing only 15 games in the NHL.
Kreider has five goals and two assists so far in the playoffs, his latest being the deflection goal in Game 3. Out of all the superstars on the ice, Kreider was the most noticeable player. His forechecking created constant opportunities, and his speed to get to loose pucks was evident.
While his defense needs to grow, look for Kreider to continue making a solid impact in this series and years to come. His line tonight should be:
Hagelin - Richards - Kreider
The loss of Brandon Prust will be a tough one to overcome for the Rangers. His penalty-killing, intelligence and two-way play have made him a significant factor for New York. However, thanks to an elbow and another Brendan Shanahan stab at the Rangers, Prust is out for Game 4.
The best move for the Rangers would be inserting John Mitchell onto the third line alongside Brian Boyle. A fire has been ignited in Mitchell this postseason. He has been skating hard, checking and making plays such as the one that led to Kreider's goal.
With the absence of Prust, the addition of Mitchell on a line with Ruslan Fedotenko and Boyle will establish more of a scoring threat, add speed and still provide solid checking.
Artem Anisimov is a talented forward with excellent hands. He has a small body, though, and thus is very weak on the puck and is prone to being leveled once or twice every game.
Anisimov does have three goals and six assists in the postseason—including three points in the Devils series—but he does not seem to be in Tortorella's favor. Anisimov hasn't logged more than 13 minutes in the Eastern Conference Finals yet, and there are better players for the Rangers right now.
On a line with the totally ineffective Mike Rupp and the inserted Stu Bickel, Anisimov will probably not see more than seven minutes in Game 4.