The New York Rangers came out with a lousy effort in St. Louis, losing to the Blues 6-2 in a game that saw Igor Shesterkin chased for only the second time in his career. It was one of the worst efforts of the season for the Blueshirts, but you could see it coming.
The Rangers, comfortably in a playoff position, are in a stretch of games against teams desperate for wins, fighting to make the post season. Their opponent, the Blues are not only in a playoff fight, but they had dropped four in a row. That they were going to come out on fire was no surprise and the Rangers played right into their hands.
What’s bizarre is that the Blues have Igor Shesterkin’s number. Twice in eight days, they scored three goals against him in less than 2:36. In their last game in New York, the Blues tallied three times in just 2:14.
Any chance of established flow and a system went out the window for the Rangers when they took three penalties in the first eight minutes of the game including 1:07 minutes down two men.
The Rangers’ penalty kill was fabulous, holding the Blues to six shots. but it didn’t help to establish any offensive flow. A minute after the third penalty ended, Dryden Hunt came in on a two-on-one with Ryan Strome who fed Hunt facing a wide open net. Hunt proceeded to shoot the puck into the pad of Blues goalie Ville Husso who wasn’t even looking at him.
That was a turning point. Instead of building off a great penalty kill and taking the lead, the roof fell in. Two minutes after the Hunt miss, Robert Thomas scored for the Blues as they scored three goals in 2:36, the second time in eight days that they had done it to Shesterkin.
Down 3-0, the Rangers got one back on the power play as Ryan Strome scored ending the period down 3-1.
But just 15 seconds into the second period, Mika Zibanejad fell and coughed up the puck to a wide open Ryan O’Reilly who put one past Shesterkin.
Gallant thought enough was enough and pulled the Ranger goalie.
Seven minutes later, the Blues put two pucks past Alexandar Georgiev, scoring twice in 38 seconds for a 6-1 lead and it looked like it was going to be a massacre.
To their credit, after K’Andre Miller scored on the power play midway through the period and that was it for scoring and the game ended 6-2 after a scoreless third period.
Coach Gerard Gallant didn’t mince words saying “We looked soft.” Asked what words he had for his players, he replied, “It wasn’t too positive. I just shut my mouth and let them play. There’s not many good things you can say. You’re frustrated. That fourth goal was a rough one to swallow. 15 seconds into the period after playing the way we did in the first….It was real disappointing. ”
He said that coverage in the slot has been a problem all year and that they need to “defend it better.”
He was especially upset about the way they played in front of their goalie. “How many times can you do it. He had no chance on the first goal. A couple tap-ins, no chance at all. You get frustrated and you hope you wake your guys up…it didn’t really. But they should be be embarrassed the way this guy plays for them all year and then they they come out here tonight and play like, especially after a game in Minnesota we weren’t too good in. ”
One issue that Gallant raised was the fact that they are down some key players and it is starting to show. The loss of Kaapo Kakko has really hurt the top six and they are beginning to see the consequences of Kevin Rooney and Greg Mckegg being replaced by Johnny Brodzinski and Tim Gettinger.
Rooney and McKegg may not have been scoring lots of goals, but their defense is much, much better than the players who have replaced them.
Here’s a video recap of the game, if you can bear to watch.
The Rangers got away with playing an AHL lineup earlier in the season, but now, when they are playing teams who are fighting for a playoff spot, it isn’t enough. We may think that players like Brodzinski, Gettinger, Barron and Greco are the answer, but it’s clear that they aren’t when push comes to shove.
Still, it’s no reason to panic. Every team in the NHL has played a couple stinkers and the Rangers were overdue. They key is how they respond Saturday night in Dallas.