If these three players can start to get their game back on track, then the Rangers will stand a good chance of getting back in this series. The Blueshirts have not yet played a complete game against the Bruins—they break down in the final stanza. Getting these players back to their talent level will go a long way.
Which players need to start pulling their weight? How can they begin to do that?
Read on to find out.
Brad Richards had a disappointing regular season. He's been even worse in the playoffs.
In nine playoff games, Richards has just one goal. After starting the postseason on the second line, he is now on the fourth line and has played a little over 11 minutes per game against the Bruins.
He's seen time on the power play, where he has been ineffective thus far. Known for his prowess on the point, those skills have seemingly evaporated this season—his shot is weaker, his passes are not as accurate and he has trouble keeping the puck in the zone.
Despite the fact that he carries a $6.6 million cap hit, has a Conn Smythe trophy under his belt and is the only Ranger to have won a Stanley Cup, it may be time to start thinking about benching him.
Right now, he's simply a fourth-line player. However, he has not played that role once in his career and is not well-suited to play a tough, physical game. The Bruins' fourth line is exceptional, and the Rangers have not been able to match that.
Instead of Richards, a player like Michael Haley or Kris Newbury might provide a more consistent forecheck and a more physical presence. Richards, despite being an alternate captain, is just not playing well enough to deserve more playing time. With the Rangers already down 2-0, it may be time to make a change.
Dan Girardi had a rough Game 2. According to Steve Zipay of Newsday:
Lucic tap in at 12:39 of third. 5-2. Girardi on ice for all five. Struggling.— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) May 19, 2013
Yikes. He is struggling. After being a workhorse in the first round, where he held Alexander Ovechkin to just one goal, he's starting to shown signs of being a bit tired. Girardi's averaged almost 24 minutes in nine playoff games, and in Game 1 against the Bruins he played an outstanding 32 minutes.
Girardi is being asked to shut down the opposing team's top lines. And while he's done a good job of that for the most part, in Game 2 he did not seem like himself. He was a bit slow on a few plays and being on the ice for all five goals is not a good thing.
Girardi is essential to the Rangers and is a main reason why they beat the Caps. But if he doesn't get his game together, it will be tough to come back in this series. The loss of Marc Staal has really hurt the Rangers' star defenseman, because it means even more pressure and minutes for him on the ice.
One game does not a postseason make, and he really was dominant in the first round. But the Bruins have a lot of talent, and if Girardi continues to make the same positioning mistakes and can't increase his pace, then the Rangers will be out of this round quick.
Michael Del Zotto has had a topsy-turvy postseason. He played just 13 minutes in Game 4 and 15 minutes in Game 5 of the Washington series, respectively, losing ice time to John Moore.
In Game 7 of that series, however, he scored a goal and was a plus-3. In Game 1 of the Boston series, he played 28 solid minutes.
However he was pretty awful in Game 2, being on the ice for four of the five goals and was constantly caught out of position.
Without Marc Staal, each defenseman has to accept a bigger workload and burden. Del Zotto is seeing time against the top lines and has not responded well. Quite simply, he needs to be better.
In addition, Del Zotto often mans the point on the power play. The Rangers could be up 2-0 int this series if they played the man advantage better. They are 0-for-8 so far, and the failure to capitalize has hurt the Rangers and given the Bruins momentum. Del Zotto has not done a good job of quarterbacking the power play; his shot has not been getting through and he doesn't move the puck with authority.
Del Zotto, in large part due to Marc Staal's injury, is now a crucial part of this defensive core. He can no longer be hidden on the third pair. He's playing first pair minutes, often with Dan Girardi, and the two have been disastrous. If one of them can find their game, the Rangers will be better off. And if Del Zotto can contribute in any way to the offense, particularly the power play, then the Rangers have a chance.