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Rangers play strong game, can’t manage a win in Washington

Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

This loss is a tough one. Not because the Rangers were outplayed, not because they had a ton of defensive breakdowns that masked a strong performance, but because they controlled the majority of the game and still managed to lose. Dan Girardi’s third period post on the 4-on-4 foreshadowed the impending doom that was the Eric Fehr game winner late in the period.

The Rangers managed 60% Corsi and Fenwick possession rates this game, but Phillip Grubauer (who now splits starts evenly with Braden Holtby) made some key saves –38 of them– when needed in addition to puck luck rearing its ugly head again. Special teams actually worked in the Rangers advantage, killing three of four Washington power plays (considering that unit, 75% is solid) and converting on one of three power plays. But controlling play doesn’t get you the win unfortunately.

On to the goals:

Caps 1, Rangers 0

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With Washington on the powerplay, Martin Erat worked the far boards, drawing Mats Zuccarello down below the hash marks. Ryan McDonagh was drawn over to help, leaving Girardi alone in front (covering the man behind the net in case he cuts to the front). Due to this, Derek Stepan was forced to come to the high slot to cover Troy Brouwer. That left Mike Green wide open at the point, who ripped the Erat pass right by Cam Talbot. Not many goalies stop that shot.

Rangers 1, Caps 1

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Zucc made a pair of solid plays on this powerplay. First he forced a turnover behind the net to allow the powerplay to set up, then he recovered a loose puck behind the net to keep the zone. Eventually the puck worked its way to Brad Richards, who had his head up the whole way and saw Benoit Pouliot in front ready for a deflection. John Carlson was not taking the body, and Richards’ wrister was placed perfectly for the easy deflection goal.

Caps 2, Rangers 1

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Michael Del Zotto turns the puck over, “shooting” his pass right by McDonagh in the defensive zone, allowing the Caps to pick up the puck at their blue line. Steve Oleksy fired the puck back in the zone that McDonagh slows but doesn’t stop, allowing Nicklas Backstrom to collect the loose puck for the breakaway.

Rangers 2, Caps 2

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Girardi laid a big hit on Brouwer behind the Rangers net, allowing McDonagh to pick up the puck and clear the zone. But McDonagh didn’t just clear the zone. He kept his head up, and saw Carl Hagelin cutting behind the Caps defense, and he flipped the puck from behind the goal line perfectly to Hagelin’s stick on the Caps blue line for the breakaway and shorthanded goal. That pass was a thing of beauty.

Caps 3, Rangers 2

Hagelin turned the puck over in the offensive zone with a blind pass to the front that the Caps picked off. This led to a two-on-two rush with Backstrom and Eric Fehr. Fehr’s wrister from the top of the circle beats Talbot clean. This is one that Talbot probably wants back. None of the pictures came out clear on this, sorry about that.

Fenwick Chart:

Courtesy of ExtraSkater

Courtesy of ExtraSkater

The Caps won the game, and wins are obviously the most important thing here. But the Rangers did not play a poor game by any stretch. They absolutely dominated the Caps at even strength, creating that 60% Fenwick advantage mentioned earlier in this breakdown. Unfortunately, the club couldn’t solve Grubauer enough to make it count. This is one of those losses that is tough to swallow, but you feel better about it because they did a lot of the right things here. But this is a team that will not win unless their top guys are scoring. They are not.

20 Responses to “Rangers play strong game, can’t manage a win in Washington”

  1. Walt says:

    As Poutiot’s game improves, we lost Nash, he is nowhere to be found!!

    Talbot let in some weak goals, especially the third, so Hank are you ready?? Let’s hope so!!

  2. Sally says:

    I’m not a coach, but the line of Nash and Stepan isn’t working. Maybe AV needs to change up the lines again.

  3. Old Fogey says:

    It’s bewildering. When Zuccarello is on the ice, he seems to be everywhere at once — winning the puck battles, causing turnovers, making thoughtful passes, even trading shoves and stick work with bigger guys. When Nash is out there, he looks lost, unsure, waiting for… what? I’m thinking that concussion may have caused more psychological damage than physical.

    • Dave says:

      Carp said it best. If he’s suffering from concussion issues, it’s frightening. If he’s not, then it’s even more frightening.

      • Tiki Tim says:

        Please don’t put any stock in anything Carp (Rick Carpiniello) says. The guy is as dumb as an ox. He’s one giant cliche that doesn’t believe in advanced stats.

    • Craig says:

      Craig says:

      Dec 29, 2013 at 7:10 am

      Maybe this Allen kid can play a more physical and nasty defense. Hope he is hungry and sparks something. I am not liking the Rick Nash trade more and more every day. At first, I thought we had a steel when the trade first happened.He has been a major disappointment in his time here. Right now he STINKS on ice! He seems like an injury prone soft big man, detached from most plays, with some skill and lacking any killer instinct. Anisimov on Columbus is playing great and has 11 goals, and Dubinsky plays a physical hard hitting game, both still with lots of potential. Didn’t we also give up some high draft choices? Nash is still young and hopefully one day soon he will find his game again; or he may end up another jellyhead like Eric Lindros (remember him?) concussion prone and on his way down. Sad…

  4. BobM says:

    “Girardi laid a big hit on Brouwer behind the Rangers net…”

    How many times have we heard this about the Rangers D-men this season? Not much. They are not taking the body as much as we should expect having a Defensive Coordinator such as Ulfie.

    Taking an opposing player out of the play gives you the advantage. A player laid out on his butt cannot skate, score, pass or backcheck.

    We do have some speedy legs out there and this creates odd man rushes.

    We have concentrated way too much on statistics, forecheck methods; defensive zone schemes; powerplay strategy and penalty kill formation, and forgot about the basics. Outnumber the opposition.

    That is the most important statistic. I am an accountant by trade, so I deal with statistics probably on not only a daily basis, but an hourly one.

    Hockey is not like a game of chance, but a game of chances.

    There are many intangibles in sports, you are dealing with human beings, not a roulette wheel or a deck of cards.

    I will give you one statistic, if you take stupid penalties you will most likely give up a goal.

    Did you see the Mike Green goal? Statistically, the largest angle to shoot at is in the slot, facing the goal, not off to the side like the Rangers are constantly trying to do.

    The Capitals have players who can shoot one-timers, name three players on the Rangers who can?

    Compare Ovi to Nash. Ovi knocked Boyle on his butt. Have you seen Nash do something that vaguely resembles that? Richards? Step?

    You don’t need a team of goons to win, the Toronto game was actually a pleasant, well fought game without fights.

    But you do need some football player type guys who see contact with the other teams guys as part of hockey.

    Living (?) in Florida, I have the NHL Center Ice package to watch the games. They must have some sort of issue with MSG because they rarely, if ever, use the Rangers feed. The announcers that I am forced to listen to are bush league compared to Sam and Joe. On Ovy’s penalty, they had the nerve to say the penalty was against the Rangers, then corrected himself and said he “may have slightly interfered…” Gimme a break. What game are these guys watching?

    It is not just this game, but every game.

    Will be spending New Year’s Eve at the BB&T Center in Sunrise FL supporting the Nassau Coliseum south attendees such as myself. Half the audience are Ex-Patriot New Yawkers.

    • Dave says:

      I don’t mean to nitpick here, but I’m confused by this statement: “We have concentrated way too much on statistics, forecheck methods; defensive zone schemes; powerplay strategy and penalty kill formation, and forgot about the basics. Outnumber the opposition. ”

      I understand the concern about stats, it’s not a new one.

      But forechecking, DZ/PP/PK schemes….that’s how you out number the opposition. By building solid styles of play. The team plays an overload in the DZ, which is a style designed to outnumber the opposition along the strong side boards.

  5. Bloomer says:

    Agreed the top guys need to score. However in modern day NHL you don’t see high scoring games all that often anymore. This is why sound defence and good goaltending is so important. Last night was a good team effort and if the Rangers played like that consistently going forward, the goals and the wins will come.

  6. BobM says:

    Dave:

    Have you ever played tennis? If you constantly are serving to someone’s backhand, they tend to cheat and start leaning in that direction in anticipation of that serve. That is why you mix up your strategies, you try not to formulate a pattern so that your opponent can out guess you.

    I have watched the Rangers powerplay for instance. They try a set play started by Richards, it doesn’t work, the puck come back to Richards, and he tries the exact same play all over again. The other team recognizes this and defends against it.

    What I am saying is that if the Rangers are defined to play a certain way, the other team will eventually catch on and know in advance how to defend against it. That is how they get out coached.

    They are way too predictable. Tennis is a lot like hockey, in fact, some goalies play the net in tennis to work on their reflexes. There are safe plays in tennis like cross court shots, down the line, etc. But I for one, like to mix them up to keep the other team guessing. The only pattern is no pattern. Someone needs to call out plays like the pitcher and catcher have a signal in baseball.

    Having schemes is great, but execution and in this case, inconsistency, will help.

    As I previously said, knock someone on their butt and they are out of the play regardless of what system you are utilizing.

    Do the math on the angle of shooting in the slot vs. from the side. Then factor in the goalie and those angles get smaller still.

    Shooting from the dots with a goalie hugging the short side post gives you a very small angle to shoot at.

    Shoot from the slot gives you two venues, there is no short side.

    Simple math, less statistics, more goal potential.

    I know that they have a set play of shooting wide to convert the rebound off of the end boards, but that is a low percentage shot IMHO.

    There are times that this team is made up of Jan Erixson’s, nice guys who couldn’t put the puck in the Hudson or East River standing at the tip of Battery Park.

    You wanna delve into statitics? We have exactly two SHG this year. What that says to me is that the other team statistically is not afraid of us scoring a shortie on them. If you want to put the fear of God into a team on the power play, then get into their heads, forget the paperwork statistics.

    There was a time when playing the Rangers meant that the other team was concerned. They knew we blocked shots, had great goaltending,etc.

    Now, they just automatically chalk up the two points.

    This team is psyched out, and no system can fix that, other than winning consistently. But that is like a dog chasing its tail.

  7. Craig says:

    Maybe this Allen kid can play a more physical and nasty defense. Hope he is hungry and sparks something. I am not liking the Rick Nash trade more and more every day. At first, I thought we had a steel when the trade first happened.He has been a major disappointment in his time here. Right now he STINKS on ice! He seems like an injury prone soft big man, detached from most plays, with some skill and lacking any killer instinct. Anisimov on Columbus is playing great and has 11 goals, and Dubinsky plays a physical hard hitting game, both still with lots of potential. Didn’t we also give up some high draft choices? Nash is still young and hopefully one day soon he will find his game again; or he may end up another jellyhead like Eric Lindros (remember him?) concussion prone and on his way down. Sad…