Despite some of the most unserious and deplorable officiating I think I have ever seen in my time watching hockey and writing these Rangers recaps, a good Rangers team found a way to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets before entering a 5 day break. Officiating aside, Alexis Lafrenière has arrived. His 2 goals, a beautiful shootout winner, and first star of the game showed he really just needed the right coach.

And how about that Artemi Panarin? He has tied Rod Gilbert with consecutive games with a point with 14 to start a season. Are we looking at a new “Hart”emi Panarin season?

First, the officials were atrocious

Back to the officiating, because what a debacle that was. Despite the win, the officiating crew absolutely ticked many off in this game. For starters, in the first period Jacob Trouba laid a textbook clean body check and Adam Fantilli challenged him to a fight immediately.

Trouba got a glove up though, and got the lone penalty for “roughing”. Isn’t Fantilli instigating? Why is Trouba having to answer for a hit that, for his standards, is pretty light? That set the stage for what would be I think the biggest clown show of officiating I’ve ever seen.

The next play that could have manipulated the outcome of the game? Will Cuylle had a goal that an angle showed was clearly in the net.

Referees deliberated, then got on a lengthy review with Toronto, and decided that there was no goal because according to the Toronto situation room: ” Cuylle’s original shot did not cross the Columbus goal line”.

Last thought on the officials, Ryan Lindgren got absolutely clobbered by Sean Kuraly, who boarded him with a flying elbow to boot. Lindgren would leave the game and not return, but after yet another review, the refs deemed the penalty did not constitute a major penalty.

This is disgraceful and malpractice for a league that says it takes player safety remotely seriously. The referees in their decision justified a player only receiving 2 minutes, while the Rangers lose one of their most important defensemen. It’s extremely hard to not only beat your opponent, but the officials.

If only there was some way for players, coaches, and staff to complain openly about this to hold those who make the calls accountable. But again, the league has deemed that they have more of an interest in protecting the egos of those who manage their games, than taking the side of the players who bring people out to the games in the first place.

Rangers Recap: What really mattered was the game

Alexis Lafrenière has been absolutely incredible to start this season with 11 points in 14 games (7-4-11). Getting the “game tying” goal to force overtime was incredibly clutch. Cleaning up a rebound, he wired the puck in short side, and got the Rangers that all important first point.

This Blue Jackets team is a scrappy one, but there was no way they were going to win once the game was tied. Lafrenière was a big reason for that with many great looks at even strength where he and Artemi Panarin have been an incredible duo this season. Peter Laviolette has unleashed a confidence in Lafrenière that he has sorely lacked in the previous years he’s been part of this organization.

Whether it was he was afraid of getting benched, healthy scratched, or would just get in his own head because the pucks weren’t going in, we are no longer in those days with him. He looks like his CHL self. The backhander in the shootout alone clearly shows how confident he is this season.

Last thought on this game: Boy is it great to have depth on the blue line and in goal. Erik Gustafsson might go down as the single best offseason signing in league history. Only making $800K against the cap, this guy has made you forget that the team is without Adam Fox right now, and it doesn’t even matter. He has a 4 game point streak, 10 points in 14 games, and has been an absolute gem on this blue line. A true master class signing from free agency.

The same can be said in goal with the resurgence of Jonathan Quick. This guy was cooked in LA and Vegas. The Rangers absolutely gambled when signing him, but Benoit Allaire, being the greatest goalie coach of all time, has made Quick turn back the clock and look like his former self.

It cannot be undervalued how important it is for the Rangers to be banking wins and points in the standings when they have such key injuries to their top players. Now, hopefully with the long break, we will see the return of one of Igor Shesterkin or Filip Chytil when the Rangers play the Devils on Saturday. Accruing points in a 10th straight game, the Rangers could not be more confident in their group right now.


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