(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).

Brad Richards, Rangers Shut Out By Dallas Stars

Games like tonight’s game are pretty frustrating. On one hand, the Rangers were not bad by any means. They were solid defensively and transitioned well. The penalty kill was very good and the power play was efficient in moving the puck around. Even in the dullest of periods the Rangers managed 8 shots, and had 33 total.

But at the same time, the Rangers let a very winnable game slip away. Let’s give credit to Richard Bachman for making some very good saves, but ultimately the Rangers just couldn’t break the barrier. Even against the best defensive teams the Rangers have been able to find quality shots near the circles or loose pucks in the slot. Tonight it seemed like mostly perimeter shots. The Rangers were unable to capitalize, and Dallas found a way to do so on one of their few opportunities.

And that is what makes a game like this frustrating. No, the Rangers did not fail to show up. They did not look slow or disinterested. They weren’t making too many mental errors. The Rangers put in a solid effort tonight, and in past seasons that might have been an optimistic point of view. But for this season that simply isn’t good enough. The great teams are able to execute, and while the Rangers have been efficient in that respect for much of the season they simply weren’t tonight. Let’s review some things.

Henrik Lundqvist- On a few occasions a bad Rangers decision with the puck gave Dallas a prime scoring chance, and Lundqvist came up big so many times. He got banged up on one shot and then took a rocket from Sheldon Souray in the same area. It takes a lot to knock Henrik out of a game, though. The goal he let in was not at all his fault but instead a combination of a bad turnover by Woywitka and an excellent move by Trevor Daley. 26 saves on 27 shots, Henrik deserved a win tonight but the offense couldn’t help him out.

Erik Christensen- Worthless, just totally worthless. The guy is just too soft and doesn’t fit in with the style of this hockey team. He had an unnecessary giveaway and generated nothing offensively aside from one decent shot. I’m used to his streakiness and he was decent enough in the game against Florida, but what really annoys me at the moment is that his faceoff ability is one of his best assets and a pretty big reason why he is on the roster right now, yet he went 1 for 8 in the faceoff circle tonight. Stepan is not very good at faceoffs yet he still managed a respectable 5 out of 11. 1 for 8? If a player does not contribute on the scoresheet consistently then he needs to be of use in other areas. Right now Christensen is not not contributing on the scoresheet, and he certainly is not helping the team in any other way.

Powerplay Units: I very rarely have any issue with what John Tortorella does; his pedigree, the individual development of the young players on this team, and the team’s success as a whole so far this season all speak for themselves. However, I do not understand what he is doing with his powerplay units. Callahan, Stepan, and Anisimov are the forwards on the first unit, which means that Gaborik is not on the ice. I understand that this specific unit has been pretty productive recently and you want to balance both units. However, here’s my issue. The first unit is very good at moving the puck and maintaining possession; almost to the point where it is counter-productive. On multiple powerplays tonight the first unit maintained possession in the offensive zone for over a minute, failing to score. And by the time the units can change there’s more than half the powerplay has expired; more than half the powerplay that your best offensive player, Marian Gaborik, is sitting on the bench. Throwing Marian Gaborik out there with only 30 or 40 seconds to work with is not the best use of him, in my opinion.

Defense: A few screwups, aside, the effort by the defense tonight as well as in  general, especially with Staal and now Sauer out, has been phenomenal. The team has only let in one goal in each of the last three games. The best part is that it’s pretty much impossible to single anyone out. Girardi is playing like one of the best defensive defensemen in the NHL but McDonagh and Del Zotto are playing some very good defensive hockey as well. Eminger continues to sacrifice his body and limit mistakes while putting some shots on net offensively. Even Anton Stralman played very well tonight, I think. On the stat sheet, he picked up three hits and a blocked shot, and he also became a part of the offense tonight I thought. He looked a lot more comfortable with the puck on his stick and was looking to make a difference. If there is one positive thing I think we can take away from this game tonight, it’s that our defense as a unit is playing well and not forcing our goaltender to make many difficult saves. Realistically speaking, tonight was an atypical performance offensively; if this defensive unit can continue to hold teams to two or less goals then we are going to win many more games than we lose.

Kind of an empty feeling after that loss. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what went wrong tonight (other than obviously not scoring). The Rangers did not get enough high probability shots, but Dallas also deserves some credit for their defensive play. I think the Rangers to just put this game in the past, because they’ve been so much better offensively for most of the season. It happens.

Make sure to check out Blackout Dallas for a review of the game from a Dallas perspective. The Rangers now head out west to face the St. Louis Blues, and Michael Sauer will not be traveling with them. One guy who might join them, though, is Mike Rupp. I thought the slot presence tonight was lacking, and Rupp is definitely a guy who could help that.

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Tags: Anton Stralman Brad Richards Dallas Stars Dan Girarid Defense Erik Christensen Henrik Lundqvist John Tortorella Marian Gaborik Michael Del Zotto Michael Sauer New York Rangers Power Play Rangers Richard Bachman Ryan McDonagh Stars Steve Eminger

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