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TimeApr 18, 2017

Canadiens v Rangers Game Four - Ranger Passion is back

Photo: David Hahn/Icon Sportswire

“Knock it out of your mind and go out and play…” Those were the words of coach Alain Vigneault as the Rangers prepared to end a six-game playoff skid at Madison Square Garden.

It turned out to be great advice but unless a great motivational story emerges from the Rangers locker room, good old urgency and fear likely sparked the Rangers as much as anything on route to a 2-1 victory.

The play-by-play numbers were much better for the Rangers in game four, but instead of comparing them to game three, which was a disaster, we will compare game four to the average of the first three games.

Offensively, the Rangers showed huge improvement in Offensive Zone Play (OZP), up 36.6%, and Offense generated on the Rush (RUSH), up 54% from the first three games.

In OZP the Rangers moved their feet with and without the puck, and supported closer, allowing them to outnumber the Canadiens and be more difficult to defend against.

On the Rush, the Rangers intensity allowed them to get moving quicker which often forced the Canadiens F3 (first man back) to turn and skate forwards, rather than waiting with their two defensemen at the Canadiens blue line, which happened often in game three.

On the Forecheck, the Rangers pursued the puck with more urgency on way to increasing their Forecheck by 69.7%.

Defensively, the Rangers were great in Defensive Zone Coverage (DZC), up 380% in game four over games one through three. The massive increase indicates the Canadiens pushed extremely hard in the Rangers defensive zone, but the Rangers managed to shut down much of that offense.

On the other hand, Montreal’s speed through the neutral zone has exposed the Ranger’s ability to defend the rush (RD). Game four RD was even lower than games one through three, and the first three games were much lower than the Rangers regular season average. Steve Valiquette at MSG Network has highlighted how Lundqvist has been much improved at stopping breakaways and outnumbered rushes.

INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTIONS - Game Four

Forwards

1. Matt Zuccarello, 2. Rick Nash and 3. Kevin Hayes in game four were more representative of the Ranger’s regular season leaders. Zuccarello had a game saving blocked shot and Nash had several opportunities he squandered in the first period, but it served as warm-up for his game winner in the second.

Defensemen

1. Ryan McDonagh, 2. Marc Staal, and 3. Dan Girardi were the clear leaders on the Ranger blue line and did some important clean-up duty. A few third period turnovers resulted in dangerous outnumbered situations, but with smart plays by the defensemen and help from Lundqvist, no one really noticed.

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