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Rangers Need to Remember What Got Them Here

The Senators haven't outplayed the Rangers, but they've out worked them

By Josh Alper
|  Friday, Apr 20, 2012  |  Updated 2:04 PM EDT
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The Rangers are losing too many of these battles.

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It's not time to panic about the Rangers.

That doesn't come unless they lose on Saturday night and head back to Ottawa with their season on the line. Right now, they've got home ice advantage in a race to two wins and they still haven't trailed during the run of play in the series.

Playoff hockey is always a beast and the fact that the Rangers are going to play at least six games against the Senators is nothing that should shake your belief in the team. Neither is the fact that Henrik Lundqvist has now lost seven straight overtime games.

It's a weird stat, to be sure, and not particularly reassuring should Game Five be tied at the end of 60 minutes, but it also doesn't tell you everything about how those seven games have ended. Lundqvist missed some he should have saved, but Marian Gaborik was the culprit on one goal last season and the team's inability to score in regulation has been a major contributing factor in almost all of the others.

So what should be shaking your belief? Exactly the same thing that shook it after the first Rangers loss of the series.

The Rangers are getting pushed around and losing individual battles far more often than they did over the course of the regular season. The losses aren't coming because the Senators' skilled players like Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris are overwhelming the Rangers on defense, they are coming because players like Chris Neil and Zenon Konopka continually beat the Rangers to pucks and refuse to give it up. 

They are coming because the Senators are getting the puck on net and putting bodies there to make life difficult for Lundqvist. The Rangers aren't doing that, with everyone but Brian Boyle relying too much on outside shooting instead of doing the dirty work necessary to rattle Craig Anderson.

Ryan Callahan did it all season, but he hasn't been doing it in this series. Neither has Gaborik and the Rangers are going to find it very hard to win if those two guys aren't right around the net fishing for scores.

The team that dominated at even strength all season has scored just two goals with five-a-side since the opening game, as clear a sign as any that they are being thrown off their game by a Senators team that's doing a better job of controlling the puck and taking it away than the Rangers. That still only adds up to a tie series, another reason not to panic, and this Rangers team has never been better than coming off a loss.

If that goes away on Saturday night, though, you can go right ahead and panic.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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