Ryan Callahan made his return known to the Rangers, potting two goals –including the eventual game winner– as the Tampa Bay Lightning blew out the New York Rangers 5-1. This game could have been a lot worse, as I can count at least two other opportunities where Henrik Lundqvist came up huge, including once in the second that kept the game at 2-1. I know that you guys are expecting a goal breakdown, but I was at the game, and didn’t get home until 10:30. I do have a full time job that I need to be awake for, and bullet points are significantly quicker than goal breakdowns. So here we go:
- The Rangers really didn’t show much last night. They looked sluggish, were getting beat to every loose puck, getting outmuscled in the corners, shying away from contact and from body checks. No one covered the slot, bad turnovers, minimal forecheck, terrible defense. This team really hung Hank out to dry.
- That said, Tampa Bay is really good. They shut down the zone entries. They forced turnovers. They neutralized the Rangers speed by cutting off passing lanes and forcing the play to the outside. They got in shooting lanes. This is a very balanced team playing without its best defenseman (Victor Hedman). There’s a reason why we all went “oh crap” when we saw the moves they made.
- On the second Cally goal, the defense was nowhere to be found. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were behind the net, despite only one Lightning player (Steven Stamkos) in that area.
- Staal and Girardi weren’t the only two who had issues last night. Matt Hunwick was a turnover machine and was caught blatantly out of position on a few occasions. It didn’t result in goals against though, but that’s mostly luck than anything else.
- Kevin Klein was also pretty putrid. As were the top-six.
- I think it’s best if we call out those who were not putrid: I liked what I saw from Kevin Hayes, but he still needs to remember to shoot the puck. I liked that little bit of attitude I saw from Anthony Duclair on Radko Gudas in the first. I also liked that the refs let that one go.
- Speaking of the refs, they had their few phantom calls, and that one heat-of-the-moment fight for John Moore (and a player I couldn’t see, they were at the other end of the ice) that they stopped before it could happen, but there weren’t too many WTF moments. They got the no-goal right, which is really the only important thing they needed to get right in this game.
- I’m going to harp on the effort again: The only goal this team scored was an own-goal on the powerplay. Then, almost immediately after, they get another powerplay, then right after a delayed call. They spent 40 seconds (or at least it felt like that) toying around instead of giving the puck to the Lightning. That is one of the first advanced things you learn: When on the powerplay, and there’s another delayed call, you give the team the puck. A 5-on-3 is much better than a 6-on-4. This one baffled me, and that’s putting it lightly, and this isn’t the first time they’ve done this. That’s just poor recognition.
- I spent a lot of time zeroing in on Tanner Glass. I spend a good amount of Twitter ink voicing my…displeasure…but I truly tried to find something about his play I liked. He delivers big hits every now and again, which can be great in close games. This game wasn’t close. What I did notice: He wanders towards the puck. It’s like he has tunnel vision. On one shift, I saw him skate east-west and practically touch the boards on both sides at least six times in the defensive zone. That’s not really a good thing. Tunnel vision is never a good thing either.
- The Rangers did the right thing by honoring Cally, Brian Boyle, and Anton Stralman in the first period. I thought Cally would have gotten some sort of video tribute, since he was with the club for eight years and was the captain –and maybe he would have if he was the only returning player– but the announcement made to the crowd was nice. It was short, to the point, and the crowd did the right thing by cheering them. All three were key contributors to the success of the team and their run to the Conference Finals in 2012 and the Stanley Cup Final last season. I’ve maintained that Boyle is one of the best fourth line centers in the game, and Cally was my favorite Ranger. But Stralman is the one they miss the most on the ice.
The schedule gets a bit easier, as the Rangers have the Flyers three times and Buffalo once to close out the month (with games against Tampa and Montreal in between). There’s still no need to panic yet. This team hasn’t hit its stride, but the peripherals (i.e.: #fancystats) aren’t exactly in their favor this time around. Cautious optimism is probably the best approach. But these inconsistent efforts cannot continue.