For additional insight into the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning during the Eastern Conference Final series, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Dave Farrish to break down the action. Farrish will be checking in throughout the series.
Farrish was an assistant coach for the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs from 2005-14. He won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. He also coached 1,027 games in the minor leagues, including the American Hockey League. In addition, Farrish, a former defenseman, played 430 games over seven seasons in the NHL.
After feeling like the New York Rangers had very little will to win in Game 5 on Sunday, Dave Farrish watched the same team come out in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday determined to extend its season.
The Rangers roared to a 7-3 victory at Amalie Arena to tie the best-of-7 series against the Tampa Bay Lightning at 3-3. He thinks the Rangers figured out a few things in the process.
"I think they realize what has made them successful," Farrish said.
Farrish said he believes that could manifest itself in several ways Friday in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
For starters, Farrish said the Rangers appear to have found weaknesses in Lightning goalie Ben Bishop that they might be able to expose in Game 7.
Bishop was pulled at 7:14 of the third period in Game 6 after allowing five goals for the third time in the series.
"He's a big guy and he challenges so much that when they go side to side on him that creates some problems for him," Farrish said. "I think with them shooting a lot of pucks from bad angles, that's going to create some problems for him as well. The Rangers have obviously made that adjustment, and that's part of their game plan now."
That game plan requires the Rangers to have multiple people around the net because Bishop has been prone to leaving rebounds. Their net presence in Game 6 arguably was the best it has been in the series to date.
"You could see their mindset is to shoot the puck at the net and get some bodies at the net," Farrish said. "It was pretty evident [Tuesday] night that that was one of the reasons why they were successful. You look at all the goals and all the scoring chances, there were several people within five feet of the paint. I think they were really good there."
The Rangers also were good in creating new shooting lanes so their shots didn't get blocked as often as they did in Game 5. Tampa Bay blocked 12 of New York's 55 shot attempts in Game 6; it blocked 24 of New York's 58 shot attempts in Game 5.
"They did a really good, conscious job of not getting shots blocked," Farrish said. "You could see a couple of plays where the defenseman thought twice. If he had no play, he either shot it wide or rimmed it down below the goal line. On [Derick] Brassard's second goal, it was [J.T.] Miller who pump-faked and threw it cross ice, and Brassard had a wide-open net. They realized they weren't going to put pucks through people so they made some really good decisions on the shot selection."
In addition, the Rangers appear to be frustrating Lightning center Tyler Johnson by taking away his space, limiting his time with the puck and going after him in post-whistle scrums.
Johnson didn't get much space to operate in Game 6 until it was late and the score was out of hand. That's when he assisted on each of Nikita Kucherov's goals. He hasn't scored in the past three games after scoring four goals in the previous two.
"I think they're getting to him early," Farrish said. "He hasn't had the freedom of getting open ice and having his speed back people off. On a couple goals late, he had more ice. But I think for the most part, they're getting into him early and they're being physical with him, taking him out of his game. They're certainly wearing him down that way."
The mental part of the series should favor the Rangers too, Farrish said. The two-day break between Games 6 and 7 could be detrimental to a younger, less experienced team like the Lightning, and it should be beneficial to the older, more experienced Rangers.
"You've got an older, veteran team in the Rangers that appreciates a couple days off and they recognize the situation they're getting into," Farrish said. "Sometimes a younger team with two days off, it can happen that you let your mind drift and wonder, think this could happen or that could happen. It can do funny things to a younger team. It'll be interesting to see how they're prepared for Game 7. I know their coach is going to prepare them but it's difficult to figure out sometimes how young guys are going to respond to that type of pressure."
There's little doubt how the Rangers will respond. They're 15-3 in games when they can be eliminated since 2012, including 6-0 in Game 7s, four of which they've won at Madison Square Garden.
Farrish thinks the Rangers' success in these situations adds to their psychological advantage heading into Game 7.
"There's a lot going to be said in the next two days and these guys aren't immune to reading all of the stuff that is going on," Farrish said. "When that goes into your brain you try not to think about it or read about it or see it on television. But it all does have an effect on the psyche of both teams and it'll be interesting to see how the younger fellas react to it."