New York Rangers: Claude Giroux

Rangers not taking Claude Giroux bait

April, 24, 2014
4/24/14
2:01
PM ET
NEW YORK -- If Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux’s Game 4 guarantee made waves inside the New York Rangers dressing room, they did their best to keep that fact concealed, shrugging off their opponents' confidence.

After the Flyers’ 4-1 loss in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, Giroux boldly proclaimed:

“We’ll be ready for Game 4. We’re going to tie up the series and go back to New York.”

That sort of statement could have poured gasoline on an already bitter series, but the Rangers, keen on preserving their series lead, didn’t seem interested in playing into the postseason rhetoric.

“I heard some people say he said something, but why wouldn’t he? What’s he going to say, ‘We’re going to go in and lose’?” said veteran center Brad Richards. “He wants to win. I’m sure their focus is on that. None of it involves us either way, whatever he says.”

The Rangers have their own plans, namely to capitalize on the opportunity to build a commanding two-game series lead with another win at Wells Fargo Center on Friday. That would provide the Rangers with the opportunity to close things out at home in Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

“We want to go in and win tomorrow too. Does it matter what we say? It’s gonna be played out on the ice [Friday] night,” Richards said. “We’re going to have to be a lot better on the ice tomorrow night, a lot more disciplined, and that’s our focus.”

Rather than lobbing incendiary comments back in Giroux’s direction -- the most obvious ammunition being that he has been limited to a mere two shots on goal the entire series, for one -- the Rangers are hunkering down and trying to fine-tune their own game.

Given Tuesday’s emotional Game 3, the Rangers want to curb their enthusiasm and limit the amount of time they spend in the penalty box. They took six penalties in Game 3, leaving them short-handed for 7:19 in the game. While the penalty-killing unit was superb, aided by a zealous shot-blocking effort, they would rather not put themselves in a similar position Friday.

Though the Flyers have struggled at times on the power play in the first trio of games, going 2-for-9 with the man advantage, Philadelphia is reportedly making some changes to its special-teams unit. Flyers coach Craig Berube told local reporters Wednesday that he was not satisfied with his club’s ability to get shots through, indicating that the Flyers would look for ways to produce quicker puck movement and find more shooting lanes.

The Rangers are anticipating as much and know they have to keep the extracurricular activity to a minimum. They did a good job of that during the regular season, finishing ninth in the league among least-penalized teams with an average of 10 minutes per game. By comparison, the Flyers were the NHL’s most penalized team with an average of 14.4 minutes per game.

“We just need to play whistle to whistle,” said center Derick Brassard, whose linemate Benoit Pouliot took two undisciplined penalties Tuesday. “We try to tell each other before game, between periods, we want to play with emotions, we want to play hard and battle, but you just need that fraction of a second you need to decide whether you want to give extra shots or be in those extra scrums. I think we got away from it in Game 3. It’s something that’s going to be part of our plan [Friday].”

Coach Alain Vigneault said his club is aware of the hostile territory and that the chippy plays won’t always result in penalties in its favor. (Matt Read’s questionable hit on Daniel Carcillo was one particular example provided.) That can’t change their mindset regardless.

“It’s something we’re expecting,” Vigneault said. “Knowing the way they play, we’ve just got to play whistle to whistle.”

 

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Flyers 1

April, 22, 2014
4/22/14
10:47
PM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- The New York Rangers took a 2-1 series lead with a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Former Flyer Daniel Carcillo made his first appearance of the series and it was a memorable one, as he recovered from both a head shot and a questionable penalty call to deliver the dagger against his old club, scoring to give the Rangers a three-goal cushion in the third period.

Flyers goaltender Steve Mason, playing for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on April 12, replaced Ray Emery in the third period after the 31-year-old gave up his fourth goal of the night.

Flyers captain Claude Giroux managed to register his first shot on goal of the series, but was again held off the scoresheet as Philly’s first line was effectively contained.

Change coming?: Emery, making his third consecutive start this series in place of injured starter Steve Mason, did not have his best outing Tuesday night. He was solid in the first two games, but gave up at least a few in Game 3 that he’d like to have back.

Considering Mason’s surprising appearance -- he dressed as a back-up, even though he was initially reported to be unavailable, and entered the game to replace Emery in the third -- he could be primed to make his first start for the Flyers in Game 4 in Philadelphia on Friday.

Big goal: The Flyers carried momentum into the second period after cutting the Rangers’ lead in half with defenseman Mark Streit’s goal at the end of the first, but they failed to capitalize on the emotional swing. Instead, Rangers’ blueliner Dan Girardi tallied the Blueshirts’ biggest goal to date of the playoffs, beating Emery with a deep slapshot to reclaim a two-goal lead at 5:17.

Lose your cool: Flyers coach Craig Berube stressed in his pregame press briefing the importance of discipline after his club spent a solid chunk of Sunday’s 4-2 win down a man on the penalty kill. Apparently, the players did not heed his message, because there was plenty of sloppy, undisciplined hockey right from puck drop. The Flyers took three separate penalties in the first period and the Rangers were almost as bad. For the Blueshirts, Benoit Pouliot was the main offender, taking two ill-advised penalties, the latter of which negated a Rangers power play.

Unlikely duo: Raise your hand if you had Jakub Voracek and Carl Hagelin as the first two players to drop their mitts in this black-and-blue series. Exactly. The two skill players squared off in the second period and Voracek ended it quickly in a lopsided bout, pummeling Hagelin before the Swedish winger could even land a punch. The crowd approved, erupting in a raucous roar, but again the Flyers failed to channel the surge. A stingy Rangers penalty-killing unit was the unsung hero for New York in the middle frame, snuffing both man-up opportunities for the Flyers in the period.

Rangers blow 2-0 lead as Flyers tie series

April, 20, 2014
4/20/14
4:31
PM ET
NEW YORK -- And we have ourselves a series, folks.

Following a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1, the New York Rangers had the chance to secure a two-game lead at Madison Square Garden, siphon all confidence from the Flyers and send them back to Philadelphia with doubts about whether they could knock off their divisional foe in the best-of-seven set.

They didn’t.

[+] EnlargeJakub Voracek
Paul Bereswill/Getty ImagesFour unanswered goals sunk the Rangers in Game 2.
Instead, the Rangers let a two-goal lead in the first period disappear as a resilient Flyers squad rattled off four unanswered goals to snap a nine-game losing streak at MSG with a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon. The two teams now head to Philly for Game 3 in what promises to be hostile territory for the Blueshirts at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

“We knew they were going to come back and play a better game than last time. It’s going to be a close race,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who gave up three goals on 24 shots. “We didn’t expect this to be easy.”

And it won’t be, if Sunday’s matinee was any indication. Staring down a 2-0 hole after the Rangers exploited some wide-open passing lanes and took advantage of the Flyers’ lack of discipline, Philadelphia surged back with the help of its first line.

Rendered ineffective for the most part on Thursday, the Flyers' top trio of Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek got the team on the board off the rush late in the first period and didn’t look back. The Flyers' penalty kill was stellar, limiting the Rangers to just one man-up marker on six power-play attempts. Backup netminder Ray Emery, who was replacing injured starter Steve Mason, was solid in net, making 31 saves to record his first win of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Flyers raised their level of play, as the Rangers expected they would.

“This is a good team. By no means did we think this was going to be an easy series,” said veteran forward Martin St. Louis, who scored his first playoff goal as a New York Ranger on a sharp-angle shot 4:08 into play. “We know we have to be better. We knew that they were going to be better after Game 1, and they were.”

In recent years, the Rangers have shown difficulty in closing out a series quickly, even after taking Game 1. In the 2012 playoffs, the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers took the series opener of both their quarterfinal set against the Ottawa Senators and their semifinal matchup against the Washington Capitals. It took the Rangers seven games to win both series, raising the question of whether fatigue was a factor in the team’s Eastern Conference finals loss to the New Jersey Devils that spring.

Last spring, the Rangers fell down 2-0 before edging the Capitals in seven games. They were then bounced in a matter of five in the second round, outclassed by the dominant Boston Bruins.

New York couldn’t convert on the chances it had to close out Sunday’s game, and the Flyers responded with that needed sense of opportunism.

How much did that hurt the team in the end?

“They were very big,” alternate captain Brad Richards said of the team’s missed opportunities. “We had some power plays tonight that we didn’t get done. We had some point-blank chances that Emery made some big saves on. It could go either way in some of those situations. They seemed to be very opportunistic on their chances, and they won.”

Buckle up. These teams may be in for a lengthy battle.

Blueshirts buy into Game 1 blueprint

April, 19, 2014
4/19/14
4:44
PM ET
NEW YORK -- With the Philadelphia Flyers sorting out their goaltending situation -- starter Steve Mason declared himself out for Game 2 on Sunday (click here for the full story) -- the New York Rangers have paid little attention to what is happening on the other side of the series.

Regardless of which goaltender is in net each game -- Mason or Ray Emery, the Rangers feel no need to deviate from the plan that propelled them to a 4-1 win against the Flyers in Game 1 on Thursday night.

They have a blueprint moving forward, and they plan to stick with that as much as possible.

“We know our game plan works if we all buy into it,” said top-line winger Rick Nash.

Nash helped spark that effort against Emery Thursday night with a team-high seven shots on goal against the Flyers backup. He picked up one assist by game’s end and said he hopes to drive the net even harder in Game 2.

“We have the same game plan. To get traffic, try to shoot from all angles. No matter what goalie you’re playing, you’re going to have to out-work him to score,” Nash said.

By comparison, the Flyers’ top line struggled to create chances, with both captain Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek failing to register a shot on goal.

The team had a decent start against the Rangers in hostile territory at Madison Square Garden, but the forecheck faltered and the Flyers ended up chasing play all night.

“In my mind, we didn’t play Flyers hockey,” said veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

So what is that exactly?

“It’s more skating and hitting,” he said. “We’ve got to forecheck really hard.”

Look for the Flyers to be more aggressive in that facet of their game on Sunday, when they aim to even the series 1-1 before the best-of-seven set shifts back to Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, the Rangers will look to make some small adjustments as well.

“Five-on-five there were a couple of areas as far as getting more situations in front of the net,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said when asked where he’d like to see his team improve.

Indeed, if there was any area in which the Rangers struggled, it was the prolonged stretches in which they were kept to the perimeter.

That’s not ideal for the type of pressure they’d like to create, obviously.

Instead, the Rangers aim to attack the middle of the ice and wreak havoc in front of Emery down low.

“If that’s not where we are, that’s where we need to get,” said veteran center Brad Richards, who finished Thursday’s game with a goal and two assists.

The Rangers sealed the game with a pair of power-play goals on Thursday, but Richards admitted it could’ve gone the other way had the team not killed off a huge penalty at the beginning of the third period.

Richards said the team expects much more from the Flyers on Sunday. And the Rangers will be ready.

“This is where we have to realize the level is going to go way higher and we can’t get caught resting on Game 1,” Richards said. “It’s a whole new game. It’s going to be a whole new speed, intensity level and we’ve got to rise to that.”

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