Rangers 2, Islanders 4.
Forgive the timing and the nature of this review. I was playing hockey with my older son during the first period and I didn’t want to ignore my wife by blogging through the last two periods, so I won’t be breaking plays down the way I normally do. Instead, this is a lot more rant-y than my usual writing.
1. This team is an absolute trainwreck at even strength. Forget Corsi and advanced metrics of possession. How about plain old shots on goal? Going into the game, they were -191 at 5 on 5, good for 29th in the league. That’s embarrassing. And in the first period of this game, they didn’t do anything to help that. They had 10 shots on the 4 minute PP, and 6 at even strength for the rest of the period. Bottom line, not good enough. For the game, they were outshot by 3 at ES, although they had 10 more shot attempts at ES.
2. The 4 minute PP in the first period was actually a great PP. Yes, they didn’t score. But it was the kind of PP that should be seen as a signal that it might actually be coming around. 10 shots in 4 minutes, many of which were, as AV would call them, grade A chances. Halak was brilliant. But if the PP keeps going like that, it will start scoring more often.
3. For every bit that Halak was brilliant, Lundqvist was not. He has not been very good this year. There have been flashes here and there (the Flyers game stands out), but overall, just too many goals allowed, many of which are bad goals. The first two goals in this one are no exception. Mayfield took so long to release his shot he might as well have sent Lundqvist a candygram to tell him it was coming. Sure, there was a screen, but he got beat shortside over the shoulder. Spoiler alert, Tavares took note of that. Second goal, sure that’s a bit of a fluke for it to go off of Chimera’s leg, but Lundqvist totally whiffed on trying to break up that centering feed. I don’t care that it was deflected. It was a pretty slow moving puck that he has to eat up. Third goal, what in the world was he doing!? It looked like the worst of Roman Cechmanek. Just embarrassing. Fourth goal, sure, it’s Tavares on a PP, but he just took the longest wrist shot release in history, dragging the puck a solid two feet. Again, short side over the glove. Just not a good goal to give up, and there wasn’t even that much of a screen. Bad, bad, bad. Now, it’s worth noting that Lundqvist did make a couple of great saves; the glove save on Clutterbuck and the stop on the sliding stop on the two on one stand out. But making a couple of great saves doesn’t negate an otherwise poor night of performance, and those poor performances are becoming the norm rather than the exception. If the Rangers are ever going to win the Cup during the Lundqvist-era, he will have to be their best player, and he has not been. Not even close.
4. Brady Skjei didn’t cover himself in glory either. He was the man screening Lundqvist on the Mayfield goal, he was the guy trying to tie up Chimera on the second goal, and he was undressed by Prince on the third goal. He’s a rookie, so there are bumps to be expected, but he (as well as Klein) have been on the ice for A LOT of goals against this year. That pairing needs to be split up.
5. In fact, I’d say all of the pairings need to be split up. Girardi is cooked. He is a black hole in terms of shot attempts (not last night). He is so concerned with being beaten by a forward’s speed that he backs off almost to the circle when the forward is skating towards him in the neutral zone. I’d like to see McDonagh paired with Skjei, like in the playoffs. I’d also like to see Staal and Holden split up to pair with Girardi and Klein, respectively. Staal is actually hitting the net with his shot a little bit more this season and finished off a nice passing play.
6. Speaking of the defense, there’s a problem with the Rangers’ breakout system. The forwards have to carry the puck too far. Their legs will be very heavy by the end of the season. The defense has to help more in carrying the puck out of the zone. It will also help the team from getting clogged in the neutral zone so often.
7. Nash’s injury is devastating. He has been playing really well lately, and his play on Vesey’s goal was another display of vintage Nash. He already had 5 SOG when he got injured less than halfway through the second period. Good on AV to openly disclose that he has a groin injury instead of “lower body.” Likewise for Puempel’s concussion. Grabner is meeting the team in Winnipeg,
but it will be interesting to see if they make a call up or just add Jooris back to the lineup. Nicklas Jensen has been called up. Jimmy Vesey is day to day with an “upper body” injury. So much for AV being specific with injuries.
8. The 6 on 3 PP at the end of the game was a train wreck. Maybe they could have used the Islanders’ tire fire to send smoke signals that they were going to set up Pirri for a one timer. Then, worst of all, the Islanders aren’t really challenging the pass to Pirri and the Rangers STILL couldn’t get it to him for a clean shot. So much for my theory on the PP potentially turning a corner.
9. All this said, the Islanders really weren’t the better team. The Rangers, down two forwards, were mostly thwarted by the goaltending battle. The Islanders remain terrible, despite their recent streak of 4-0-1. AV said something in his press conference today about the team needing grade A goaltending. Shots fired, indeed.
10. JT Miller is a beast. He was really flying out there, playing with a lot of toughness and heart. He’s got future captain written all over him. He had a lot of ice time in this game, but he should be playing further up in the lineup more often.
11. Marek Hrivik looked like the same Marek Hrivik from last year. His turnover in the neutral zone led to the Islanders’ third goal. Otherwise he was fine.
12. Zuccarello was buzzing a bit. He’s so sneaky good sometimes that if his name doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, you might have missed all of the good things he did. But make no mistake, he was doing them in this game. He also had 5 SOG, but it took him the whole game.
My Three Rangers’ Stars:
- JT Miller
- Mats Zuccarello
- Rick Nash
Your Three (Four) Rangers’ Stars:
1-4, all tied: Miller, Raanta, Vesey, Zuccarello