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.
In order to get enough pucks through to challenge Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, Dave Farrish thinks the New York Rangers need to think and shoot the way they did in a Game 5 win against the Washington Capitals in the second round.
The Lightning blocked 24 shots in a 2-0 win in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday and lead the best-of-7 series 3-2. Game 6 is at Amalie Arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
"Much like Washington was doing, Tampa was blocking a lot of shots in Game 5 and the Rangers have to get more lateral in their game," Farrish said. "The defensemen have to walk the blue line more, and the forwards are going to have to either be more selective or pump fake. They need to be more patient. That's the only way you're going to get through those lanes because as you saw [Sunday], they're blocking like crazy."
This was a new wrinkle the Lightning threw at the Rangers in Game 5. They had blocked 56 of New York's 224 shot attempts through the first four games. That averages out to 14 of the Rangers' 56 shot attempts per game.
The Rangers attempted 58 shots in Game 5 and the Lightning blocked 24 of them, including 10 of 22 shot attempts in the third period, when they were protecting a 2-0 lead.
Tampa Bay's game plan going into Game 5 was to be more defensive, to focus on limiting scoring chances against instead of trying to simply out-chance the Rangers. If the Lightning plan to stick with this approach, and they say they do, the Rangers have to find a way around it.
New York did in Game 5 against the Washington Capitals, when they had 43 shots on goal and 13 blocked en route to a 2-1 victory. The Capitals had blocked 86 shots through the first four games, including 52 combined in Games 3 and 4. They had a 3-1 lead in the series.
"I think your shot selection has to be a little bit more patient to try to find a way to get those pucks through," Farrish said. "Sometimes even shoot the puck wide and look for the rebound because when guys are sliding all over the ice trying to block shots that opens up some avenues if they don't block the shot because they're down and out."
Farrish also said the Rangers need to change the direction of their dump-ins to avoid Bishop, who is one of the best at his position in handling the puck.
He felt the Rangers had too many dump-ins in Game 5 that wound up on Bishop's stick, which is a big reason why they couldn't sustain pressure after the Lightning took the lead on Valtteri Filppula's goal at 13:29 of the second period.
"Tampa did a real good job in the neutral zone of neutralizing their speed and forcing them to dump it in, but too many pucks got to Bishop," Farrish said. "He handles the puck too well and that's going to be a key issue for them, to go with a soft chip in the corner to keep it out of his hands. That allows the forecheck to get going, allows you to be physical on the forecheck, and creates the chance for puck recoveries, too. There were a lot of one and outs [Sunday]. They dumped it and everything came right back.
"There needs to be more importance placed on puck placement on the entries. If you can't skate it in, if they're going to stand up and challenge, you've got to keep it out of Bishop's hands."
Other than those minor adjustments, Farrish said the Rangers don't have too much to complain about with their game and shouldn't change much even though they're in a must-win situation.
Although he understands the temptation, Farrish said the Rangers shouldn't try to open the game up because the Lightning showed for one game that they want to play a tight checking game. The Lightning could also burn the Rangers in a wide-open game.
"The Rangers are used to playing a certain way and they've had success playing a certain way," Farrish said. "I just think for some reason they didn't seem to have the urgency in their game [Sunday]. Obviously they're going to have it [Tuesday]. If not, they're in big trouble. That urgency could be the difference. Game 4 was a real good game of urgency on their part and that's the effort they have to have to be successful."