For a team that is fighting to stay in the top eight in the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers sure did not play with any kind of fight tonight in a 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg.
It what has been a consistent theme this season for Blueshirts, the Rangers did not generate too many quality scoring chances, allowed too many quality scoring chances to the Jets and looked like they lacked the energy that is needed to win a hockey game.
Furthermore, Rangers' forward Marian Gaborik was denied on a penalty shot by Jets' netminder Ondrej Pavelec in the first period. Gaborik got in too close to Pavelec and ended up losing control of the puck, which was then smothered by Pavelec.
Smothered would be the perfect word to describe what the Rangers' play has been in these last two games. The club cannot find the open holes to generate quality scoring chances, cannot find good shots to get on the power play and then when they do get a scoring chance, they make the opposing netminder look like the next Patrick Roy.
This word would also describe what is happening to some of the team's top players. Guys like Gaborik, Rick Nash, and Brad Richards have been quiet in these last two games and if one of those guys is not scoring, that means trouble for the rest of the Rangers' team.
After playing a perfect road game in a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon, the New York Rangers went out a dropped a 3-1 tilt to the Buffalo Sabres tonight in Buffalo.
The Blueshirts took a lot of penalties, could not cash in on the power play when given a gold opportunity to do so and could not find a way consistently to put the puck past Sabres' netminder Jhonas Enroth. Put these three things together and more often than not, the Rangers will be on the losing end of a the hockey game.
Staying out of the penalty box seemed to be a tough thing for the Rangers to do tonight. The team took four penalties in the second period alone and when a team is shorthaned that much, it usually does not need to productive or winning hockey.
Despite making 32 saves, the Rangers made Enroth look like Patrick Roy. For Enroth, this was his first win since 2011 and the Blueshirts made sure to put plenty of pucks at his chest or in other areas that were easy for Enroth to control the puck.
Lastly, the Sabres were able to shut down Rangers' forward Rick Nash and his 10-game point streak. Not only did Nash not score a point in this game, but he was also a -2.
That is exactly what the New York Rangers played this afternoon in their 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals.
The Blueshirts got timely goal scoring, played solid on defense, got a great game from back-up netminder Martin Biron, and did a good job at killing penalties when they needed it the most. With the exception of the first ten minutes of the game in which they looked like they were asleep, this was by far and away the best Rangers' road game of the season.
It was nice to see Rangers' forward Brian Boyle come through with his first goal of the season in the second period on a delayed penalty. On the goal, he showed patience with the puck, got into good position and showed why guys should not be afraid to put the puck on net. Hopefully, this goal will get him going.
The club also got another excellent game from Rick Nash. Nash used his size, helped create two goals and was responsible in his own end.
Another big factor in this tilt was the play of Biron. Biron was sharp in making 28 saves and did his job by keeping his team in the game, giving his club a chance to win, and stopping the pucks that he should stop.
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Tags: brad+richards, brian+boyle, buffalo+sabres, carolina+hurricanes, martin+biron, new+york+rangers, ottawa+senators, pittsburgh+penguins, rick+nash, toronto+maple+leafs, washington+capitals, winnipeg+jets
This is exactly the case when it comes to the New York Rangers.
So far this season, the team has relied on players such as Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin, and Derek Stepan to put the puck in the net. While those five players have scored a combined 36 goals this season, the rest of the team's offense is nowhere to be found.
Do you remember when Rangers' forward Brian Boyle scored over 20 goals a few seasons ago? It seems like a distant memory because for whatever reason, he has not been the same since that season. This year, Boyle has just one assist in 19 games and has also been a healthy scratch several times this season.
What also seems like a distant memory was the strong offensive play of Chris Kreider? While there is no doubt that he is going to a solid Ranger in the future, his offensive game was nowhere near what it was in the postseason. In 11 games this season, Kreider had just one goal and one assist and because of his struggles, was sent down to Hartford to play with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL.
While there is no doubt that Rangers' centerman Jeff Halpern has been a solid penalty killer and solid offensive-defender for the team this year, he has not been able to produce on the offensive side of the puck. In 23 games, Halpern has just one assist and has only taken 10 shots on goal.
That is what the New York Rangers hope to do tonight on Long Island when they take on the New York Islanders.
The Blueshirts have won three straight games and have done so with timely goal scoring, solid defense and great goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist. Tonight against the Islanders, the Rangers will need those same three things to pick-up their fourth straight win.
The team will look to continue its winning streak without one of their best players, Marc Staal. In the team's 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, Staal took a puck just above his right eye in what was one of the most scariest puck-to-the-eye occurances in the sport. The Daily News reported that Staal will make a full recovery but is now out indefinitely.
Due to Staal's injury, the Rangers went out and claimed defenseman Roman Hamrlik off waivers. Hamrlik, 38, can hopefully add some offense to the team's blue line while also providing smart and solid defense in the team's own zone
The New York Rangers may have won two straight games but even with four points in their pocket, the team still finds themselves out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
One team that is currently ahead of them by one point, the Philadelphia Flyers, come into Madison Square Garden tonight looking to steal two points for the Blueshirts and continue to climb the standings. The Rangers have had a lot of success over the Flyers in the past year or so but in a shortened season like this one, the past means absolutely nothing.
The two teams met once already this season and the Flyers won in a convincing fashion by beating the Blueshirts by a score of 2-1. The Flyers outshot the Rangers 33-19 and had it not been for the splendid play of Blueshirts' masked man Henrik Lundqvist, it could have been a lot worse.
For the Rangers, it was the end of winning streak against the Flyers that started in March of 2011. Last season, the Rangers won all six games against the "Broadstreet Bullies" and did so by clicking in all areas of their game.
For the Rangers to get into the top eight and into the thick of the Conference playoff race, the team will need to get all areas of their game clicking once again. Too often, the Rangers have one area of their game working on all levels and another suffering.
On Thursday night in their 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the New York Rangers fired 42 shots on goal and created offense by not being afraid to go to the net, by not being afraid to put pucks on net and lastly, by following the lead of one of their own players.
That player was power forward Rick Nash. Besides getting on the scoresheet with two points on one goal and one assist, Nash had a game-high 12 shots on goal and was a force all over the ice.
Nash created offense by driving through the Lightning defense, by going to the dirty areas where goals are scored, by using his quick and smooth stickhandling skills and by using his size. The rest of the team followed suit and it resulted in a victory.
While the team also has the likes of Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Carl Hagelin, and Ryan Callahan, it is Nash's offense that the team needs to follow. Nash creates scoring opportunities by not getting too fancy and by keeping the game simple, something the Rangers have struggled with this season.
Returing from a unpsecified injury after missing the last four games, New York Rangers' forward Rick Nash showed how much of a difference he can make when he is in the lineup.
In the last four games, all losses for the Blueshirts, the team's offense was quite stagnant. There were not enough pucks thrown on net, there was no creativity, there was no movement and there was not enough being done to generate quality scoring chances.
Insert Nash back into the lineup and the Blueshirts become a different hockey club as Nash creates offense in a variety of ways. Tonight in the team's 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, Nash got open for breakaways, made terrific moves with the puck to generate quality scoring chances, helped set up a goal, scored a highlight goal in the third period and was not afraid to put pucks on net whether it was from the outside, down by the crease or in the slot.
With Nash going hard and doing everything he can to generate offense, the rest of the team seemed to follow suit. In the first period, the Rangers tied a season high with 20 shots while allowing just three.
Then in the second period, the Blueshirts continued to pile on the shots and wound up outshooting the Lightning 15-8. If you are keeping track, the team outshot the Lightning 35-11 through two periods.
After winning the Atlantic Division, finishing first in the Eastern Conference and coming to within two wins of making it to the Stanley Cup Final since 1994, the New York Rangers came into this season as Stanley Cup contenders.
Throw in the fact that they had a Vezina Trophy winning goaltender between the pipes, traded for power forward Rick Nash and had the same defensive corps. the Blueshirts were in more than good position to win a Cup this year.
Unfortunately, nothing good has come from any of the above mentioned things for the Blueshirts this year. After losing 4-3 at Madison Square Garden tonight to the Winnipeg Jets, the team finds themselves in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. Sure, the Rangers are just one point out of the eighth spot but based on the way the team has played over the last week and a half, it certainly does not seem that way, right?
Tonight's game was a perfectly winnable situation for the Rangers, despite being depleted with injuries. With that said, the team's offense was not there until it mattered and when the team cut the lead to 3-2 in the third period, Rangers' masked man Henrik Lundqvist allowed an untimely bad goal to Jets' forward Evander Kane.
Another momentum killer for the Rangers came in the second period. The team, in particular Ryan Callahan, did a terrific job of killing off a Brian Boyle penalty and then a few minutes later, former Ranger Olli Jokinen scored to give the Jets a 3-1 lead.
More than a quarter past the season already, this is something that the New York Rangers need to do if they want to get into the postseason.
Tonight, the Blueshirts are in Montreal to take on the Canadiens. These two clubs met on Tuesday night in what was more of a chess match than a hockey game and the Canadiens escaped Madison Square Garden with a 3-1 victory.
There is no doubt that every point matters in this kind of season but the Rangers need to try and find ways to get two rather than one. While the team was able to get one point in their Thursday night 3-2 shootout loss to the Senators, it really did not help then standings wise.
Coming into tonight's tilt, the team is eighth in the East with 18 points, but just one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers are also 5-3-2 in their last 10 and while that is not terrible, it is not the play of a Stanley Cup contender.
With all of this in mind, Rangers' head coach John Tortorella must find different ways to get this hockey team going. Sure, they can get solid defense and excellent goaltending on a nightly basis but right now, it is not winning hockey games on a consistent basis.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
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