The quick update: Ryane Clowe (probable concussion) and Marc Staal (eye) were both on the ice for an optional morning skate. Not sure if either will play in Game 3 tonight, but I imagine both want to. Carl Hagelin, who went leg-on-leg with Alex Ovechkin early in Game 2 and skipped practice Sunday, will play tonight.
Photo above, from Getty Images. Enjoy it. It’s the only Rangers goal of the series so far.
Meanwhile, here’s the unedited version of my column from The Journal News and LoHud.com today:
By Rick Carpiniello
GREENBURGH – The Rangers are where they are, and it’s not good and it sure hasn’t been pretty.
Is an 0-2 hole going home for Games 3 and 4 of a playoff series the end of the world? No, of course it isn’t. But the chances of coming all the way back are slim, and the way the Rangers have fallen into that hole against the Washington Capitals sure makes it look grim.
They have scored one goal in two-plus games, a wrap-around by Carl Hagelin that went in off Capitals defenseman John Erskine’s skate in Game 1. In Game 2, the Rangers went to an overtime at 0-0 for the first time since 1933 … and lost because their power play failed miserably and the Capitals’ didn’t.
The Rangers, in their entire history have come back from 0-2 to win a playoff series exactly once, in 1996 against Montreal, when they lost the first two at home.
This hole looks deeper because of their inability to score against an average Washington team and a still unproven goalie Braden Holtby.
“Every team plays defense,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said Sunday. “At times I think we’ve had chances. We haven’t capitalized. We still have to develop more. We’re going to continue trying.”
Trying isn’t the problem, finishing is. Especially when Rick Nash – who has had Capitals draped on him for two games – can’t produce a goal, or when No. 1 center Derek Stepan (one goal in 27 career playoff games) can’t buy one, or when Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Derek Brassard or any forward can’t chip one in.
Then again, this has been the Rangers’ bugaboo for years, especially under Tortorella.
They scored 14 goals in six games against the Devils last spring, 15 in seven against Washington before that, 14 in seven against Ottawa before that. They scored eight in five games against Washington the year before, and 11 in seven games against the Caps in 2009 (including seven in the last six games).
The power play is obviously the No. 1 culprit, to go along with a struggling penalty kill against the league’s best power play. Deadly combo. And yet the Rangers, despite very uneven play, and mostly being outplayed, could have won either game in D.C.
Hagelin, who went knee-on-knee with Alex Ovechkin early in Game 2, skipped practice Sunday, but the team said he’s fine and will play Monday night. Ryane Clowe (probable concussion) skated in practice and hasn’t ruled himself out of Game 3, but doesn’t know if he’ll play. Marc Staal (eye) also remains a possibility to return as the series goes on.
Mostly, though, it’s the Rangers’ collective psyche that will be tested because of the frustration of being unable to score … and understanding that without goals, there is no chance.
“That is the furthest thing of a worry for me, this group of guys,” Tortorella said. “This is a good group of guys and last time I remember, you need four games to win a series. Our guys are fully aware of that. So I don’t even think about that after a situation like (Game 2).”
He did think about a decision he made in overtime, when a long shift, then an icing, then a timeout, then another chance to change players on the ice resulted in a shift of 3:04 for Ryan McDonagh. That ended in McDonagh tossing a puck over the glass for a delay-of-game penalty and Mike Green’s power-play winner.
“If you’re asking me, should he have been on the ice, I put him on the ice 10 out of 10 times in that situation,” Tortorella said defiantly. “If it happens again (in Game 3) I’ll do the same thing.”
If the result is the same, turn out the lights.