Rangers record: 1-3
Maple Leafs record: 2-2
Theme: Getting back on track—and staying there!
Plus: Don’t look now, but the Blueshirts' secret weapon -- is get this! -- Taylor Pyatt. Even John Tortorella has been praising the Blueshirts’ offseason acquisition. Pyatt collected his third goal in as many games. Which means he should get extended minutes against Toronto; even on the power play.
Minus: The powerplay -- oy vey! The Rangers should have put Philly in the Schuykill River with their five-on-three advantage. This was in the late stages of regulation and Torts’ troops could hardly develop scoring opportunities. The power play must be fixed; fast.
Even: Henrik Lundqvist delivered an exemplary performance, but even that wasn’t enough. Don’t be surprised if Marty Biron starts against the Maple Leafs.
Challenge: Resiliency is what this game is all about. The resident philosopher Brad Richards notes that overcoming adversity is the key to the team’s success. “It’s part of the identity that we established last year. We’re going to have to work had if we’re to be successful.”
Fan comment: Michael Rappaport of Woodside, New York: “ Special teams prove to be the difference in every game. The Rangers must win the special-teams battle. If they do, they’ll come away with two points.”
KEYS TO STOPPING TORONTO:
1. It’s true that good things happen when a team puts pucks on goal.
In Philly, Lundqvist was beaten on shots from the point. The Maple Leafs, with mediocre goaltending, should be vunerable.
2. Ryan McDonagh fared well containing Claude Giroux. He faces another hefty task with the Leafs' talented trio of James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel.
3. Figure that Torts will rely on his top line to life them back on track. As they go, so go the Rangers.
4. Breakout passes can be more efficient. Sloppy play in the New York defensive zone cost them
FOUR MATCH-UPS TO WATCH:
1. Stu Bickel fared well against Tom Sestito in retaliation for a thunderous check on Jeff Halpern. A heavyweight bout with Colton Orr is possible.
2. Derek Stepan vs. Mikhail Grabovski: The second-line centers are counted on to excel in all situations
3. Rick Nash vs. Dion Phaneuf: The Rangers' hulking sniper will look to get back on track after a scoreless night in Philadelphia. Leafs coach Randy Carlyle will count on his shutdown defenseman to log over 25 minutes.
4. Carl Hagelin vs. the Leafs' bottom-pairing defensemen: Tortorella must utilize Hagelin’s speed on the forecheck to create scoring opportunities.
The Leafs are a team to be taken. Torts may have to break up his top line to do so, but the major talent is all on New York’s side.