The New York Rangers are still alive, as a 2-1 win at Madison Square Garden in Game 4 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final has given the team new life. That said, it's not time to get comfortable.
Down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Kings, the Rangers must continue to fight and play with the emotion that was evident in the Garden during Game 4. The series will move back to Los Angeles for Game 5, but the Rangers played pretty well there in the first two games of the series. They jumped out to 2-0 leads in each contest before faltering late.
Henrik Lundqvist was superb in locking down his team's first win of this Stanley Cup Final, saving 40 shots and only letting one goal through. The one goal was scored by Dustin Brown on a breakaway after a broken stick by Dan Girardi led to the easy offensive possession.
Game 5 should be a good one as the Rangers look to stave off elimination once more. Below is all the must-know information for the dramatic Game 5.
Live stream via NBC Live Extra.
|Game 5||June 13 (8 p.m. ET)||NY Rangers at Los Angeles||NBC||NBC Live Extra|
Fight for Faceoffs
The fight for the faceoff is critical in the NHL today. Controlling the puck and maintaining possession is key. Plus, faceoffs in the offensive zone allow for quick snapshots and potential rebound plays near the net.
David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times wrote about situations where winning a faceoff is crucial to the outcome of a game:
At the offensive end, a victory can translate into a quick shot on goal. At the defensive end, it is crucial to keep the puck away from the other team.
Penalty kills, when the opponent has an extra man for two minutes or longer, can be even more vital. Kopitar won this type of draw early in Game 3 on Monday night, allowing his team to fling the puck all the way down the ice.
Jarret Stoll is one of four Kings players who handle a majority of the faceoffs. He was successful in winning many of them in Game 4, leading to offensive possessions for his team.
Even though the Rangers won, the Kings were the aggressors in the contest. They skated faster and had more offensive tries at the net. Thankfully for the Blueshirts, Lundqvist was other-worldly in goal.
In Game 5 and beyond, pay close attention to the faceoffs. They're something that often get overlooked.
Getting to Rebounds
The Rangers are a far better offensive team when playing in front of the net and executing on rebounds. They struggled at doing this in the first three games, but it became apparent that head coach Alain Vigneault stressed this prior to Game 4. There was at least a conscious effort to get in the face of Jonathan Quick.
Rangers star Carl Hagelin knows that beating Quick isn't easy, but getting opportunities off rebounds are where they'll find success, via Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times:
Hagelin said the route to beating Quick is 'for us to keep shooting and [keep] getting to rebounds. You’ve got to make sure you bear down when you get a chance. You’ve got to make sure you really want to score that shot. Net traffic always helps, getting to rebounds, those are things that can help us score goals tonight.'
We saw effort in Game 5. Martin St. Louis scored his team's second goal on a shot within inches of Quick's right pad. He climbed the ladder on Quick, which is also something that the Rangers must work on moving forward.
Quick will stop anything he sees. If the Rangers can change eye levels, they'll have more success.
For now, the focus should be getting to those rebounds. Quick shots off rebounds don't give goaltenders much time to react. They will often catch them off balance, making it difficult to get part of the body on the puck.
The Rangers were efficient at this in the regular season. It's time to show it in the Stanley Cup Final.
History Repeating Itself?
The Kings should not be comfortable with this 3-1 lead.
Back in the 2012 finals, the Kings were up 3-0 on the New Jersey Devils before New Jersey stormed back to take the next two games. The Kings eventually won in six games, but the Devils had momentum on their side after being in a must-win situation very early in the series.
The first three games of each series were also strikingly similar. The first two games were won by the Kings in overtime. The next game was won by the Kings via the shutout. Just take a look below:
|Game||2012 (vs. Devils)||2014 (vs. Rangers)|
|1||Kings, 2-1 (OT)||Kings, 3-2 (OT)|
|2||Kings, 2-1 (OT)||Kings, 5-4 (OT)|
|3||Kings, 4-0||Kings, 3-0|
Kings forward Jeff Carter didn't think of Game 4 as a guaranteed win, and now moving to Game 5, his mentality is likely the same. He knows that getting the fourth win of the Stanley Cup isn't easy, via Randy Miller of NJ.com:
"We realize it's never over till you win four games. It's an old cliché, but the fourth game is always the toughest one to get."
The Kings are still in control of this series, but if the Rangers win Game 5, this series will be entirely different.