New York Rangers' 5 Biggest Questions in Playoff Series vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The New York Rangers are tied 1-1 with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the 2014 NHL playoffs.
They'll be happy to come back to Madison Square Garden with one win, but they will not be happy with their effort in Game 2.
The Rangers still have a number of questions looming over the rest of their series against the Penguins. What do they need to do to answer those questions and take control of the series?
Read on to find out.
When Will Rick Nash Show Up?
In 21 postseason games with the Rangers, Rick Nash has just one goal.
Sure, he's been playing well, getting chances, making good passes and he has good possession numbers.
But the Rangers aren't paying him to be a good player. They're paying him to be a difference maker.
So far, he hasn't done that. He doesn't need to score a goal every game, but Nash needs to be the player we saw in that late-March game against Columbus. He needs to be physical, engaged and wreaking havoc.
If he does that, we could see the Rangers really take off, both on the power play and in the series.
But if he stays on his current trajectory, then the Rangers will have to seriously question whether or not Nash is a big-time player.
Can the Rangers Win with This Power Play?
Maybe the title of the slide should be, "Can the Rangers Win with This Abysmal Power Play?" After all, that's what it's been: just abysmal.
We all know the stats. The Rangers haven't scored on the power play since Game 2 of the first round.
Teams can win with poor power plays. Last year, the Chicago Blackhawks converted on just 11.4 percent of their power plays. The year before, the Los Angeles Kings converted on just 12.8 percent.
So, it's possible. But it doesn't mean the Rangers aren't going to struggle to win. They had three power-play opportunities at the beginning of Game 2 against Pittsburgh and failed to capitalize. One goal could've made a huge difference.
But they can barely even enter the zone, and when they do, nothing happens. There's no movement, no really good chances.
It would be great if the Rangers could put a few bodies down low and try to manufacture some dirty goals. They put Anton Stralman on the point, but that did nothing. What they really need is traffic and shots.
At this point, it's probably more mental than anything. One goal could open the floodgates, but the way that the Rangers have killed momentum with their inability to score on the man advantage does spell trouble for the rest of their playoff run.
Will Dan Carcillo Remain in the Lineup?
If I were a betting man, I would bet that Dan Carcillo will sit for Game 3, and J.T. Miller will take his place.
Carcillo has a role. We saw what he can do in big games with the big goal in Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers. When he's engaged and under control, he can be a big asset.
But he's just not a second-line winger. The Rangers need some more punch on that second line.
Miller looked good in two postseason games with two points, and he was plus-three.
It made sense that he wasn't in for Game 7: There's just no reason to start a youngster who has barely played.
The Rangers need offense. They need a quick winger who can get in on the forecheck. That's what Miller can do. Look for him to take Carcillo's place in Game 3.
Will Chris Kreider Play?
The Rangers could sure use Chris Kreider's blend of size and speed.
The winger, who last played March 24, is still recovering from a wrist injury. But according to Steve Zipay of Newsday, he could make his return in a few days:
Chris Kreider, who had surgery on his left hand on March 28, is “looking better”, Vigneault conceded, and did not rule out his return in this series. “I don’t know, we’ll find out,” he said. The left wing, wearing a non-contact jersey, joined the team at the end of practice for the second day, stickhandling and attempting some soft shots. Kreider had 17 goals, including six on the power play, during the season. Here's the problem: With the schedule of games tonight and tomorrow, the Rangers likely won't have a full practice Tuesday before Wednesday's Game 4. So in my opinion, the earliest Kreider would be back is Game 5.
If the winger can return, the Rangers will be ecstatic. They've really missed his net-front presence on the power play, and his ability to scream down the wing could open things up in the middle. He would fit nicely on a line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin.
He obviously won't be the same player when he returns, but just having him park in front of the net could do wonders for the anemic power play.
Will Ryan McDonagh Return to Form?
Ryan McDonagh just hasn't been the same since his shoulder injury in Vancouver.
After all, the minutes-eating defenseman played fewer minutes than Marc Staal in Game 7 against Philadelphia and in Game 1 against Pittsburgh.
Ice time is always a good sign of what a coach thinks about a player, and right now, Alain Vigneault is trusting Staal more than McDonagh.
It's great that Staal is playing so well, but the Rangers need McDonagh to be the player that garnered Norris Trophy consideration. They are a better team when he is on lockdown in his own zone, leading the rush and making great passes.
It's possible that he's still hurt, and it's not like he's playing terribly. But he's been getting beat a lot more than he usually does.
He needs to find his game, fast or else the Rangers will be in trouble.