Five Rangers Who Need to Step Up in Game 6 for a New York Win
The New York Rangers have their backs against the wall after a failed comeback in Game 5 against the New Jersey Devils. In a series that is eerily similar to the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals between the same franchises, New York hopes to repeat history.
With a win-or-go-home mentality, it will be up to the Rangers' stars to take charge. Five players in particular will need to have their best games to give the Rangers a chance to extend the series to a seventh game.
5. Brian Boyle
Brian Boyle is a dangerous man to have on your team. The Ranger forward can use his enormous size to block shots and create chaos in front of the net. Boyle started the playoffs hotter than anyone, scoring in the first three games of the first round against Ottawa.
But after a Chris Neil hit left him with a concussion, Boyle has not been the same. After missing the last two games against Ottawa and the first game against Washington, Boyle has been unable to find the back of the net.
Against the Senators, Boyle had 18 shots on goal in five games. Since returning from the injury, he has only taken 15 shots in 11 games. The Rangers need to put the puck on net more if they want to win, and Boyle will have to return to the form he had against Ottawa if he wants to contribute. He may not be a star, but a big game from Boyle would be a huge lift to the Rangers.
4. Ryan Callahan
It might seem a little unfair to have Callahan on this list. He has been solid for the Blueshirts throughout the playoffs. He's tied for second on the team with five goals and has been given more ice time than any other forward in the postseason.
Callahan is on this list solely because of the 'C' on his sweater. While there wasn't much controversy when Callahan was named captain in September, it is still a role taken very seriously by the Rangers and their fans. The legacy left by former captain Mark Messier is a hard one to live up to.
Since Messier retired in 2004, the captaincy has not had the same impact. After the lockout, the job remained vacant for a year until Jaromir Jagr reluctantly accepted the position in 2006. After Jagr's departure, Chris Drury seemed to fill the opening well, but was never able to take the Rangers back to where they wanted to be.
In his first season as captain, Callahan has helped this team excel. Now is the time where he will need to make his legacy.
3. Marian Gaborik
Marian Gaborik's ability to put the puck in the net is invaluable to the Rangers' success. Gaborik was the team leader in points, goals and shots on goal in the regular season. New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur, however, is an obstacle Gaborik has struggled to defeat.
In their first matchup in November, Gaborik scored two goals on Brodeur. But in the other five meetings, Brodeur has kept Gaborik off the board. In the Eastern Conference Finals, Brodeur has continued his dominance over the Rangers leading scorer.
Gaborik's only goal of the series came off a misplayed puck by Brodeur in Game 5 that Gaborik managed to push under the out-of-position goalie. If Gaborik can find a way to beat Brodeur, it would go a long way in their effort to extend the series.
2. Henrik Lundqvist
You wouldn't know the Rangers had a Hart Trophy finalist in net Wednesday night the way Henrik Lundqvist played.
In the first ten minutes of Game 5, Lundqvist allowed three New Jersey shots to cross the goal line. The Devils had only taken five shots. At the end of the night, Lundqvist allowed four goals on only 16 shots. It was only the second game this season Lundqvist had a save percentage of .750.
The other occurrence was in the scoring-heavy NHL All-Star Game in January. Lundqvist had his worst game at possibly the worst time. Lundqvist began the playoffs hot and was a favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
In this series, however, Lundqvist has been extremely streaky. In the two Ranger wins, Lundqvist didn't allow a goal and had a combined 57 saves. In the three losses, he has allowed 10/72 for a .861 save percentage, well below his regular season percentage of .930.
1. Brad Richards
Like Callahan, it might seem unfair to have Brad Richards on this list. He has been the top producer for New York in the playoffs. He leads the team in postseason points and assists and is tied for first in postseason goals. But Game 6 is the reason the Rangers signed Richards this offseason.
Richards is supposed to be the piece the Rangers were missing since they returned to the playoffs after the lockout. In the six previous seasons, New York made the playoffs five times. Twice they reached the second round, but they never advanced further.
Richards has made a difference already, bringing the Rangers to a position they haven't been in since 1997. But Richards wasn't wooed to New York and made the highest-paid player in the NHL to get them to the Eastern Conference Finals. He was brought here to win.
Game 6 is Richards' chance to prove he was worth the big money. He won the Conn Smythe with Tampa Bay during their Stanley Cup season, proving he has the ability to succeed in the playoffs. He will need to play on that level against the Devils Friday night if he wants a chance to hoist the Cup again.