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A frustrating loss for the Rangers in what was otherwise an entertaining game. Both teams traded high-danger scoring chances all game–the Rangers alone had 5 breakaways. While there were some media who thought this game was a trash heap and “holiday hockey”, the Rangers led the night in 5v5 scoring chances, and won the xG battle. You take this kind of game every night if you’re a fan.

The difference was a broken play that ended up in the back of Jonathan Quick’s net from a broken stick and a quick turnaround shot in the slot. Not many goaltenders can make that save. Goals from Artemi Panarin, Will Cuylle, and Mika Zibanejad were the offense in this one as well, another solid balanced game.

Artemi Panarin is this team’s MVP, hands down, no questions asked. He scored his 20th goal of the season, and it isn’t even New Year’s. The chemistry that he and Lafrenière have at 5 on 5 has really improved the last month, and we are finally seeing Lafrenière get assists on Panarin’s goals.

As we continue along this season, the points are going to continue to come for both of those players. One aspect of Lafrenière’s game this season vs his previous years is he’s really setting up some grade-A scoring chances for his teammates. With 10 goals and 10 assists on the season–most of it at even strength as well–this is easily the best Lafrenière has ever looked in his young career.

Speaking of young careers, how about the start for Will Cuylle this season? What Will Cuylle has brought to the Rangers this season has been valuable to the bottom six. Cuylle is the Rangers pest that can score, something they’ve been lacking as an answer to players like Brad Marchand and Tom Wilson, except he’s not dirty.

Cuylle easily has 10+ years in this league lined up for him where he’s going to become a major contributor. He’s doing the best he can playing with Jonny Brodzinski and Nick Bonino on this current third line, but he never is afraid to mix it up and throw some clean massive hits. As the Rangers continue to get healthy and acquire pieces to go on a run, the quality of lineman will increase for Cuylle. Cuylle in the playoffs will be something to watch.

Despite the loss, take a bow Jonathan Quick. Aside from the goal by Evan Rodrigues, where he missed his angle, Quick was stellar again. Benoit Allaire has certainly worked his magic on Quick, as this was just his second loss in regulation. He wasn’t the reason the Rangers lost, as he was the one keeping them in it with saves like his scorpion save in the first period.

Quick’s resurgence into the goalie he was a decade ago needs to be studied and researched. One thing is for sure though: Backup goaltending is certainly not a concern this season for the Rangers.  As we get further and further into the season, however the team wants to split the net time for Igor or Quick, you have a goalie who you think you are going to win the game either way.

This was a frustrating loss because of how close they came to forcing OT and securing a point, but the response against the Lightning should be good. Is this the point of the post where we point out that the Rangers have been great in second half of back-to-backs this season?

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