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NHL Playoffs: Rangers young guns step it up

John Tortorella often spoke throughout the season of the importance of the development of the Rangers’ young players. Now in the midst of the playoffs, the plan is beginning to pay off.

John Tortorella often spoke throughout the season of the importance of the development of the Rangers’ young players.

Now in the midst of the playoffs, the plan is beginning to pay off.

The Rangers entered last night’s late Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal trailing top-seeded Washington 2-1, despite having been outscored 6-4.

With an average age of 27.4 at the start of the season, the Rangers were the ninth youngest team in the NHL. Nine players — Brandon Prust, Derek Stepan, Brian Boyle, Ryan McDonagh, Artem Anisimov, Matt Gilroy and Mats Zuccarello — made their NHL playoff debuts in this series, while Chad Johnson dressed but not has played. The playoff neophytes have totaled a goal, an assist, two points and are minus-4 in the three games.

Statistically unimpressive but the game is more than numerals. Prust has irritated the Capitals by finishing his checks and, like his teammates in Game 3, crashed Michal Neuvirth’s crease. While McDonagh and Sauer have not scored in this series, they have are even in just 21 minutes a game. Both have found themselves on the ice against Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals captain has scored two goals, two assists and four points in three games.

“I think [Gilroy] was up the ice, which we want him to be. It’s not just him. It’s all our young ‘D’. It’s a matter of consistency. For them to learn that you can’t shift down; you have to keep getting better as the series goes on,” Tortorella said earlier this week about Gilroy, McDonagh and Sauer. “Our [top] defensive pair has done a pretty good job. But if you’re going to contain [Ovechkin], it has to be a group of people. He stays out there so long that it’s not always that defensive pair.”

 
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