The Rangers decided they only needed to play hockey for 20 minutes to beat the Carolina Hurricanes, and it wound up being true. The Rangers were outshot 25-11 in the first two periods, but still managed to escape tied heading into the third period. Then they actually decided to play hockey, scoring three times –also allowing one immediately after they scored– to take the 4-2 win.
This was not a good game by the Rangers, who played 20 minutes out of 60, but managed to eke out the win. Henrik Lundqvist kept them in it for the first two periods, which gave them the opportunity to come out with the win. After that, it was the Chris Kreider/Derek Stepan show. Stepan finished with a goal and two assists, and Kreider had a pair of goals in the third.
On to the goals:
The Rangers lost a sloppy game in Buffalo the other night. Very few players even showed up, but one that did was Adam Clendening, notching an assist and playing a pretty solid game, although he did take a late penalty. But they lost, so it’s back to Kevin Klein and the status quo. But let’s be fair, the entire team needs to start playing better or else last year’s one-and-done in the playoffs is a best case scenario.
This afternoon the Rangers get the Carolina Hurricanes for the third time, having split the first two games. If not for Rick Nash carrying the team earlier in the week, Carolina would have two wins against the Rangers. If not for horrid goaltending, Carolina might be in a playoff position. They are a skilled team, if not that deep yet. But regardless, this is a game the Rangers need to win and do it the right way.
In his one game return, Clendening was solid if unspectacular, showing his skill at moving the puck. He also made a nice defensive play on Jack Eichel in the third, but then took a holding penalty.
This shouldn’t shock anyone. It’s going to take an injury to get Clendo in the lineup regularly. Let’s hope Klein’s game picks up.
The Rangers were not at their finest last night, struggling to keep up with a Buffalo Sabres team that had the entire team –including Henrik Lundqvist– chasing the puck. Lundqvist had the eye-opener first goal, which seemed to affect his confidence as he was consistently out of position for the rest of the game. It wasn’t just Hank, as the Rangers were running around their own zone most of this game.
Just when you thought the Rangers might win this game, the Sabres’ continued dominance eventually broke through in the third. Down one, and with Hank having a strong period to that point, Jack Eichel put up a pair of goals (both of questionable strength) to give the Sabres the lead. In all fairness, Hank –who had a weak game– had been preserving the lead almost singlehandedly until that point.
This was not a good game by the Rangers. Every single player on the ice was sloppy. They couldn’t sustain offensive pressure. They couldn’t play defense at all. The goaltending was off. Just a giant egg from every single player.
On to the goals:
After a roller coaster win against Carolina on Tuesday, the Rangers are looking to build on their strong third period against Buffalo. The Rangers erased a two goal lead and got off the schneid, so building some momentum will help get them moving in the right direction. The Sabres are the perfect team to do that against, as their defense is pretty bad. Might actually be worse than the Rangers.
But that’s why they play the games. The Sabres may be bad on defense and questionable in net, but they are skilled and deep at forward. They can easily exploit the Rangers defense as easily as the Rangers can exploit theirs. Banking points is important for the Rangers, but getting back to proper process –note: not banking the puck off the glass every single time they clear the defensive zone– is perhaps more important.
Fans have been clamoring for Clendo to get into the lineup for a while. It’s no surprise that it’s for Klein either, who has been struggling mightily all season. Let’s see what the kid can do.
We are 24 games into the season, and we’ve seen a Rangers team that has wowed us, depressed us and made us feel every feeling in between. No matter where you sit on the spectrum of the Rangers play, you are likely happy with the 16-7-1 start to the season. If not, then you are likely happy with the +29 goal differential thus far. If not, then well then I’m assuming you hate the coach.
We’ve seen enough of the Rangers that we can evaluate their performance and perhaps what’s to come for the rest of the season. Joe Fortunato did a wonderful job of reviewing if you should be worried about the club, something you should check out, and this is likely going to cover a lot of the same points. I had this post planned for today, so I’m going to write it anyway. Sue me Joe.
The Rangers are 2-3-1 in their last six games, and have played some pretty poor hockey in that stretch. They are dealing with injuries, but they are also dealing with a regressing blue line and regressing shooting, which is taking its toll on the offensive potential of the team. No matter which way you look at it, the Rangers need to play better.
Enter Carolina, who is very quietly just three points out of a playoff spot. It’s still very early, but it’s clear Carolina is moving in the right direction. Give them a halfway decent goaltender, and they might be a sneaky playoff team. They are able to move the puck well, but struggle a little to score (2.46 G/G). They have a -4 goal differential, but that is almost entirely on bad goaltending.
This is a perfect opportunity for the Rangers to get some confidence back by lighting up the Canes, but the last time we said this, they lost.
Regression is miserable to watch, and we are going through that misery right now. As Rangers fans, you’d think we were used to this by now, having gone through the exact same thing last year. Even though this year’s team is vastly improved and still a playoff team, there are some major problems on the blue line that have not been addressed. If the Rangers are to succeed beyond a being a one-and-done in the playoffs, things need to change.
The good news is that we’ve seen Alain Vigneault already make one adjustment on the blue line. Remember top pairing defenseman Nick Holden? He wasn’t being put in a position to succeed. He’s now on the third pair, and has been significantly better in that role. It’s time to make those adjustments for the rest of the lineup. These aren’t major moves either, it’s just a simple matter of tweaks before a potential upgrade arrives.
When the Rangers lost Mika Zibanejad to a broken leg, the Rangers lost perhaps the one forward that would be the most difficult to replace. Zibanejad is a unique forward for the Rangers not in production, but the curveball he throws to the opposition when matching up. The majority of the Rangers are left-handed, pass-first players. Zibanejad is the exact opposite as a right-handed, shoot-first player.
This is the kind of player that the Rangers sorely needed for the longest time, as he was the pure shooter the Rangers needed not only at even strength, but even more so on the powerplay. It was the most evident the other night against Ottawa, when the Rangers could get nothing going on with the man advantage.