Just when it looked like the Rangers finally were going to end the losing streak, they managed to screw it up. After Dubinsky’s goal, the Rangers had a lead for the first time in over 250 minutes. Nonetheless, a few quick goals from Evander Kane in the final 6 minutes turned everything around and the Rangers now face the reality of their sixth straight loss. In the previous 5 losses, the Rangers did a lot well but not enough to win. Tonight, though, despite the mistakes, was a game they absolutely SHOULD have won. Tortorella has remained calm through the losing streak, citing those things that they did well despite not ending up with the points. I really doubt he is going to have that mentality about tonight’s game. You simply can not throw away two points to a team right below you in the standings this late in the season.
That said, no need for the overreaction, Rangers fans. It’s extremely short sighted to demand knee jerk reaction moves by Sather. We have one of the youngest teams in the league, and though it sucks to watch right now, the growing pains are worth it in the long run. Gaborik and Lundqvist, at 28 years old, are the oldest of our true core, and are both signed for a while. We are not running out of time. We have no reason to give up the future for this season. Losing sucks. This team should be doing better, and some players need to start doing some things differently, but let’s not pull a Darryl Sutter and feel the need for mindless moves just for the sake of making moves. I would hardly be shocked if Sather does make a move in the next week, but that’s only if the right deal comes around, and it certainly won’t be one that shakes the team up. Be upset about the losing streak but let’s not blow everything out of proportion. Let’s review the game:
Henrik Lundqvist- Yes, he let in 3 goals, but he had a very good game in his first game in over a week. Lundqvist had 32 saves on 35 shots, many of which came on the penalty kill. He bailed out the team when they made dumb turnovers, and even on Kane’s 3rd goal, he made 2 great saves beforehand. There’s only so much he can do. The Rangers are going to have to score more than 2 goals if they plan on allowing Lundqvist to face that many shots. I’m sure Henrik will say that he could have played a bit better, but the truth is that he was the best Ranger tonight. Hopefully he can carry that momentum for the rest of the season.
Marian Gaborik- No, he didn’t score tonight. Yes, he needs to put the penalty shot in. That doesn’t change the fact that, without him, the Rangers get shut out tonight. Gaborik got the primary assists on both goals, including Staal’s powerplay goal, which he didn’t score on only because Pavelec absolutely robbed him. Outside of the points, though, he was absolutely flying around the ice and looked like the Gaborik we were used to seeing last season. When he plays like he did tonight, Gaborik is one of the most dynamic players in the league. The goals will come as long as the ambition is there. Rangers fans are going to be on him for missing the penalty shot, which he admitted he has to score, but he is one of the last people that should be blamed for the loss. He generated almost all of the offense himself tonight.
Marc Staal- He has been great the whole season, but he especially deserves praise tonight. Tortorella gave him the first real powerplay time of his career and he made the best of it. He pinched at the perfect time and put in Gaborik’s rebound. It was refreshing to see that considering the previous strategy for the point men was to be stationary at the blue line. That is the kind of movement that will lead to goals on the powerplay.
In general, it’s interesting to see that the people who insisted that Staal was a one dimensional defenseman are noticeably silent this year. After some pretty good numbers last year, Staal is one goal away from his career high of 8 and is on pace to finish the season with 10. No, he’s not Paul Coffey, but Staal is undoubtedly going to consistently score 10-15 goals a season, which is everything you can ask of him when paired with his elite defensive play. The New York Rangers’ scouting of the earlier part of last decade was nothing short of pathetic, but trading up to draft Staal was one of the best things that has happened to this franchise in a while.
Turnovers- The team played extremely sloppy today, making many poor decisions in the defensive and neutral zones. Anisimov’s and Del Zotto’s just happened to be the two that Atlanta capitalized on, but there were numerous poor decisions that Lundqvist was forced to nullify. If turnovers don’t lead to goals, then a lot of the time they will lead to penalties, which brings me to…
Penalties- The Rangers have one of the best penalty kill units in the league, but they can only prevent goals for so long. If you give the opposition enough chances, then they are going to capitalize eventually. The Rangers took five minor penalties tonight, many of which were unnecessary or the result of poor decisions with the puck. The penalty kill and especially Lundqvist prevented them from scoring on the first four attempts, but the Thrashers finally converted on their final attempt, which came at the worst possible time for the Rangers. If you want to win, then you need to stay out of the penalty box.
And so ends an abysmal road trip for the Rangers. Hopefully they can put this in the past and start fresh at home. They play a completely crippled Pittsburgh Penguins team on Sunday.