There honestly is not very much I can say about tonight’s game that is not depressing. The Rangers were playing their second game in two nights and they certainly looked like it. In previous Rangers losses the effort was there but portions of the game cost them. Tonight was not anything like that. The Rangers came out playing well for the first ten minutes of the game and after that were completely outplayed by New Jersey. Simply a miserable effort. Let’s look at the post-game notes:
Ilya Kovalchuk- Credit to Kovalchuk for having an excellent game, but the Rangers didn’t do very much to get him off his game. Kovalchuk had his way in the offensive zone and the Rangers did nothing but watch him. Very uncharacteristic of this team. The Rangers can match most teams in the league in depth, so it’s all about stopping the other teams’ best. They hardly did that tonight.
Henrik Lundqvist- Outside of their shot-blocking effort and face-offs, Lundqvist is just about the only great thing from the Rangers’ perspective tonight. There was nothing he could do to stop Kovalchuk’s goal and saved a few other breakaways from the Devils. The Devils really should have beaten the Rangers by more than one goal, but Lundqvist didn’t allow that to happen. With 27 saves on 28 shots, Lundqvist had by far his best game in the last few weeks. It will be interesting to see if Tortorella lets Lundqvist start his 3rd game in four days on Sunday. His play certainly warrants it, and if the Rangers plan on playing like they did tonight then they’re definitely going to need him to even have a chance.
Staal/Girardi- A sloppy game by both of them, but that’s what happens down the road when your coach has no choice but to play them 30 minutes per game for the whole season. Either they were exhauted, or they took skating lessons from Derek Boogaard overnight. You can not fault Staal for the puck getting past him on Kovalchuk’s goal, but neither he or Girardi were even close to catching him on the transition back, giving Kovalchuk an easy breakaway. Again, I blame this on their fatigue more so than their effort. The Rangers’ number one concern should be to get a power play quarterback, but for those of you that were questioning why the Rangers would be after someone like Eric Brewer, tonight you have your answer. The Rangers need a defenseman of any kind to take some minutes away from those two. Gilroy and Del Zotto playing 9-11 minutes even strength means the other four defensemen have to play even more shifts. We were able to get away with it earlier in the season when there were fewer miles on the speedometer. Tonight we saw that isn’t going to work anymore. If the Rangers do manage to get into the playoffs, then a minute eating defenseman will be even MORE necessary, given small gap between games and the potential for extended overtimes. I absolutely understand the need to not make a panic move and to make the best deal both short term and long term for the team, but Sather really needs to do something pretty fast before the team puts themselves in a hole.
Ryan Mcdonagh- Could you imagine how little depth the Rangers blue line would have right now if Mcdonagh didn’t sign a professional contract with the Rangers this offseason? He still has plenty to learn and has yet to show any offense to his game, but for now he’s done everything asked of him, which is more than he should be burdened with in the first place.
Mats Zuccarello- Zuccarello seemed to be the only person interested in creating offense tonight. He took multiple quality shots tonight and set up Christensen for a wide open net which he could not capitalize on. He also hustled hard on the backcheck and even got in Colin White’s face when the team lacked any momentum.
15 miserable shots, and only a few of them had any real chance of going in. The powerplay couldn’t even get a shot on net, let alone score. Johan Hedberg got the easiest shutout of his career. I’m also tired of hearing about the Devils “trapping” tonight. They had 28 shots, so while they certainly collapsed in the defensive zone and didn’t allow the Rangers to do much, the Devils certainly spent plenty of time moving forward with the puck. The Rangers were simply outworked and outplayed tonight. They don’t have much time to rest, either, with a game on Sunday against Philadelphia, who is at the top of the conference and isn’t going to feel any sympathy for the Rangers.