Rangers look for new ways to generate offense

Sunday, 05.05.2013 / 1:49 PM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH -- While Braden Holtby's telling comment following Game 2 Saturday was meant as a compliment to his defense, it was also an unintentional criticism of the New York Rangers.

"It wasn't a very straining game on a goalie," a relaxed Holtby said of how he felt following the Washington Capitals' 1-0 overtime win at Verizon Center.

The Rangers made it that way. They know it, too.

"If he's thinking that then we've gotta be better, go to the dirty areas, make it hard, make it so he can't get out of his crease," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said after practice Sunday. "That's one area we can focus on that might help us to have a puck deflect in off somebody or something like that. In this series it's tough for both teams to get goals, so maybe we just need to put a couple more bodies around the net and throw it there."

It's obvious the Rangers will have to score in Game 3 Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2) if they're going to close in on Washington. The Capitals' win on Saturday gave them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series.

But the question is how are the Rangers going to try to do everything McDonagh is talking about when the Capitals are limiting their puck possession in the offensive zone?

The Rangers want to forecheck, but Washington isn't letting them. They want to be aggressive and get on the cycle, but Washington isn't letting them.

New York didn't have a shot on goal over the final 17:43 in Game 2. It barely got into the offensive zone in overtime -- and that included a two-minute power play.

"You gotta get pucks behind them," captain Ryan Callahan said. "It's a matter of getting pucks behind their 'D' and getting in on the forecheck."

OK, but how?

"You see them, they're doing a lot of high flips and just trying to gain territory," McDonagh said. "I think we can maybe just throw it to an area, throw it behind someone and let someone skate onto it as opposed to looking for stick blades. They're pinching pretty hard on our wingers and we can use the middle and flip it out, let our forwards skate onward. That might help."

Sounds simple. And, for the Rangers, it sounds familiar, too.

They scored 51 goals in 14 games last month because they did a lot of what both Callahan and McDonagh are talking about.

"Nothing has changed in our gameplan or anything like that," Callahan said. "It's just a matter of getting the puck in the net. We noticed in the month of April our success came from below the top of the circles off the cycle, getting pucks to the point, getting shots through. Once you start doing that other things open up. I don't think we've done enough of that to create other things."

The Capitals deserve some credit for that. Their system is based on winning battles in the neutral zone to force turnovers. As McDonagh pointed out, they pinch hard on the wingers and try to close the gaps in the middle of the ice. It's not easy to get through that, especially when you're looking for tape-to-tape passes.

"You see them, they're kind of stretching the neutral zone, throwing it up in the air and creating bounces and foot races that way," McDonagh said. "I think we can take a page out of their book, stretch the zone. It's just too tight in both zones defensively and the neutral zone. If we can throw it to an area we can use our speed up front to create chances that way."

The Rangers would help themselves if they could find any kind of rhythm on the power play. Coach John Tortorella used words such as "stagnant" and "paralyzed" to describe the power play after Game 2.

The Capitals have made them look that way because of how much pressure they're applying on the puck. Instead of trying to kill a penalty the traditional way, the Capitals are trying to create offense off their penalty kill. Eric Fehr nearly ended Game 2 early in overtime when he created his own shorthanded chance by forcing a turnover in the neutral zone.

"It's a matter of moving the puck, trying to get it on and off your stick," Callahan said of how the Rangers can counter the Caps' pressure on the PK. "If you get a guy chasing you and the puck is going the other way I think that's tough for a penalty kill. It's tough when you put two or three passes together and move the puck to the net. Hopefully they get out of position."

And maybe that makes Holtby sweat a little more than he did in Game 2. It's the only way the Rangers will have a chance to win Game 3.

"I guess he thought it was easy," Callahan said. "We thought we could get more opportunities. We've gotta get guys in front of him. He's a good goalie, there's no question. If he sees the puck he's probably going to make that stop."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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