Right before the Flyers-Rangers series began on Thursday, we swapped questions with our Rangers friends over at Blueshirt Banter, SB Nation's Rangers blog. Two games later, the series is tied at 1, and we decided to do it again. Thanks to Mike "Dig Deep" Murphy over at BSB for answering my questions below.
1. On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being "not even remotely concerned and there is zero chance we lose this series" and 10 being "we are completely screwed beyond all belief and have zero chance of winning this series", how concerned do you think the average Rangers fan is about this series as it heads over to Philadelphia tied at one? And how concerned would you say you personally are?
I would say that most Rangers fans are at about a 6 or 7. That number is as high as it is because Rangers fans, by nature, are a pessimistic bunch. Perhaps my understanding of the Rangers fan base as a whole is spoiled by being exposed to a few too many kooks on blogs, twitter, and the radio... "Put in Cam Talbot!" Right now there are plenty of Rangers fans that are questioning whether or not the Rangers are "tough enough" to handle the Flyers and are convinced that Rick Nash has been invisible in the series thus far. They're the sort of people I wish I could hit with a sock full of doorknobs and suffer no legal repercussions. Sadly, our society frowns on such things. [ED. NOTE: Been there, bro.]
Personally, I am at a 4 or 5. I'd feel about the same if the Rangers held onto their lead in Game 2 and were headed into Philly with a 2-0 series lead to be honest with you. The Flyers and Rangers are pretty evenly matched teams. Both teams are very good at what they're good at but are simply not elite hockey teams. If the Rangers start getting production from all of their big names I think they should be able to get past the Flyers if Hank stays on top of his game. However, I can also see the Rangers losing if the club continues to struggle to finish considering how many shots they are putting on net. Also, Giroux is eventually going to become a bigger factor and when he does it's going to be bad news for the Rangers and their penalty kill.
2. The Rags have pretty well controlled the flow of play at even strength through two games, but have only scored three goals at 5-on-5. Do you think they're doing a good job at getting quality chances and are just getting stifled by Ray Emery, or do you think they're making it too easy on him?
I feel like the majority of shots are coming from the outside and therefore they aren't terribly challenging, even for a goalie with mediocre lateral movement like Emery. I also feel like the Rangers aren't crashing the net and jumping on rebound chances half as well as the Flyers have in the first two games of the series. It's all well and good to put shots on net when there is a shooting lane but the Rangers should start hunting down rebounds and start looking to crash the net and get some ugly goals. It's the playoffs; most of the goals scored aren't going on highlight reels.
3. Who's a Ranger that you think has played particularly well so far and who's a Ranger who you think has done the opposite of that?
I think Martin St. Louis has really stood out in the series thus far. In addition to putting up three points he's been battling for pucks and making a lot of things happen which is a great thing to see because he was clearly struggling and forcing his game after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning on deadline day. Mats Zuccarello has also been the perfect little spark plug on the Rangers third line. We're head over heels in love with him and his game over at Blueshirt Banter and for good reason.
Anton Stralman has looked a little shaky in both of his games and has been beaten a few times. Stralman is a fancy stats darling but has shown some warts this season, especially since the Olympic break. Worryingly enough, the same can be said of Ryan McDonagh who still might be working off some rust after returning from injury for the 2014 playoffs. McDonagh simply doesn't get beat in the way that Voracek beat him in Game 2 (nothing against Voracek). The Rangers are going to need McDonagh and Stralman to return to form if they want to get past the orange and black.
4. What kind of steroids are the Rangers' fourth line on? Seriously they have been all over the place through two games and it's really annoying me.
The Rangers fourth line is the best it has been in recent memory. This time around we actually have guys who can skate, forecheck effectively, put shots on net, and play against almost anyone. In my opinion, the key to it all is Dominic Moore. Moore was an outstanding free agent signing by Sather and has been a standout in the Rangers bottom six all year long. He's a great skater, a monster on the faceoff dot, and never takes a shift off. He's my kind of hockey player.
5. Seriously, who gives up goals to Luke Schenn and Andrew MacDonald in the same weekend?
I don't know, who trades James Van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn and gives Andrew MacDonald $30 million over 5 years? Boom.
[ED. NOTE: ACTUALLY IT'S $30 MILLION OVER *SIX* YEARS THANK YOU VERY MUCH.]
Thanks again to Mike for answering our questions! I also answered some questions for them over at Blueshirt Banter so feel free to take a gander at those, and keep checking in with them throughout this series for all sorts of Rangers thoughts.