The Rangers had a one goal lead with 5:56 remaining in the third period, and I feel happy the team escaped with just a point. A feeling I had since early in the first. That’s how good the Blackhawks were and how bad the Rangers were. The Blackhawks’ pressure was relentless. The ice felt slanted. 41-18 in shots!?!?!?!? It was like Chicago had jets on their skates. They are a dominant team who seems destined for the Cup finals in the near future, if not this year. The Rangers seem destined to just miss the playoffs and not even snag a top draft pick.
The Rangers did not raise their level of competition, seemingly resigned to the fact (which true) that they are not as good as Chicago and so can not beat them even in one game (not true). The Rangers basically made three types of mistakes, two of which are endemic to the team and one of which is easily teachable/just one of those things. First, they committed WAY too many neutral zone and defensive zone turnovers. Rozsival, who was good the last two periods (mostly) committed a few in the opening minutes alone. This helped the Hawks slant the ice. Second, they did not knock men off their skates around their own net. This directly led to Chicago’s regulation goal. The D needs to get tougher. Torts actually has preached this all year. We have a young offensive-minded defense corp, so this is something that needs to be worked on. Finally, Gilroy got beat down the ice, badly, by a faster player in OT. Probably just a great play by Dustin Byfuglien, but something Gilroy hopefully learns from — that people in the NHL are really really fast and, no matter how fast you are, body positioning is critical. Small lesson that had to happen at some point, just hurts it happened in overtime.
In other game news, the King returned! Lundqvist was superb. He stood on his head for the entire game. Without him the Rangers would have been blown out in the first period. At the risk of stating the obvious, this is very very good news. At the risk of stating another obvious fact, this has been the same story line for the past 4 years. It’s getting old to me. Imagine how Lundqvist feels.