The Rangers were missing their two top scorers from last year in Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal, and were also missing captain Chris Drury, who may not score much, but provides a veteran presence and helps a floundering penalty kill (last night’s kill was a big oh-fer). Many people will point to the third period as to when the Rangers lost the game, but it was really the second period when the Rangers gave the Avalanche all the hope they would need to win.
In that second period, the Rangers saw themselves on several powerplays, as a result of some fantastic blue collar work. However, the Rangers failed to capitalize on any of the three powerplays, including four minutes of powerplay time in a span of 4:40. The most telling sign was when Brandon Dubinsky’s forecheck created a turnover by Avs goaltender Craig Anderson, who was caught behind the net. We all saw this happen, as Dubinsky failed to lift the puck into an empty net, and Anderson got his left pad on it, keeping the game tied at one a piece. It seemed like an innocent play, but a 2-1 lead for the Rangers going into the third is different than a 1-1 tie, and was probably the point in the game when most got the feeling that this would not end well.
On the positive side, the Rangers lone goal came from Alex Frolov, who gets his first of the year. Derek Stepan showed he could take control of the powerplay, and is looking more and more like a future captain of this club. The defense only allowed one even strength goal, which was the best performance of the year thus far. In the second, the defense pinched at the right moments, and the forwards cycled back to cover for the pinching defenseman. It was a cycle that we have not seen executed properly for probably a decade, and they did it against a very good team.
The Rangers are going to be hurting for at least two more weeks until Gaborik returns. The defense and Henrik Lundqvist are going to have to steal a few games if the Rangers are going to stay in the hunt until all the injuries clear up. For now, the Rangers are going to have to avoid trying to be cute, and just get those dirty goals by crashing the net and taking the punishment that comes with it. There’s a possibility that this can be a very long few weeks, but there’s also a possibility that this can provide opportunity for the youngsters to which fans have grown attached to carry the burden and show why they belong on the roster.