Going into this series with the Hurricanes, I expected the Rangers to lose out to a more experienced team. As it turns out, I have once again underestimated this team, who will return to Raleigh for Game 5 with the series tied at 2-2.
Each team has won their respective games at home, and scoring on the road has been a challenge, with just three goals scored by the visitors in the first four games. It’s a problem that the Rangers will have to solve if they hope to advance to an Eastern Conference match-up with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Still, the Rangers have to fancy their chances, having come within 150 seconds of winning Game 1, and then losing Game 2 on an unforced error with a shorthanded goal. They were also able to control Carolina’s offense for much of the game, though struggled to find their own in either of the first two contests.
At home, with the advantage of the last change, the Rangers did a better job of freeing in particular Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, but they also managed to get offense out of the second line last night. By contrast it was the kid line who had the best chances in Raleigh, probably because of more favorable matchups than the Jordan Staal line assignment they had in New York.
New York also saw the Rangers power play cash in once in each game, the only two power play goals for either team in the series thus far. This was a particular area of weakness in Game 2, and if the Rangers can keep the success going, it could certainly pave the way to success on the road.
Still. Carolina are a perfect 6-0 at home this post seasons, having won all 4 games against Boston, and the first two against New York as well. By contrast, they’re now 0-5 on the road, and last night’s loss in Game 4 was the first of this series where one team controlled the game for the most part.
Another factor that can’t be underestimated, is the increased physicality that the Rangers brought to the game. With Max Domi getting a cheap cross-check off on Ryan Lindgren at the conclusion of Game 3, the Rangers appeared to respond last night with a thundering hit by Jacob Trouba on the aforementioned Trouba, that earned the Rangers their second power play of the evening thanks to Steven Lorentz jumping in to fight Trouba.
The Rangers scored on the ensuing power play and that seemed to tilt the game towards the home team. Domi appeared to want to get in the midst of things again at the end of Game 4, so we’ll have to wait and see whether that results in a similar response on Thursday.
Other factors to consider were the improved play of Andrew Copp, as well as an elite game from Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren. All three had multi-point games, with Fox in particular looking in fine form as he he setup the first goal and then tipped in what would be the game winner.
Barclay Goodrow who fractured his ankle May 3rd, in the Game 1 triple OT loss to the Penguins in the first round, is reportedly back skating. That’s a period of three weeks, an aggressive timeframe given the typical recovery time for such an injury. While Goodrow seems very unlikely to play in Game 5, and perhaps Game 6, his return would be welcomed if the Rangers can find a way past Carolina.