The Rangers got another taste of what virtually everyone in the NHL has experienced this season, and that’s being humbled by the 36-5-4 Boston Bruins.
For the second time in as many meetings at MSG, the Blueshirts were outclassed by the B’s, where Thursday’s 3-1 final gave them a dose of reality and increased the gap between the two clubs to 19 points in the overall standings.
The Rangers’ effort was there, but so were the nuances that have kept this team from reaching its true potential. Here are my takeaways from the loss.
THEY COULDN’T FINISH:
The Rangers outshot the Bruins 32-27. Still, the difference was finishing their chances, which didn’t happen once for New York until Ben Harpur’s first NHL goal in four years with 4:23 left spoiled Jeremy Swayman’s shutout bid, who was brilliant and outplayed Igor Shesterkin.
The Bruins, coming off a 4-1 win at the Islanders on Wednesday, set the tone 79 seconds in when Pavel Zacha took advantage of Vincent Trocheck missing an assignment and tipped home a David Krejci shot for a quick 1-0 lead.
Between that tally and the early one in the second, the Rangers peppered the net with numerous opportunities but were denied by Swayman. Then early in the second, Trocheck left his man, going to where Harpur was; on his off-side, Patrice Bergeron burned him with a snipe from the high slot to double the Boston lead.
It was more of the same in the third when Conor Clifton scored off a two-on-1 rush with Brad Marchand 28 seconds into the final frame, putting the game out of reach. Throughout the contest, which included three power plays, there were golden opportunities by New York, including multiple net front chances by Artemi Panarin, who had five shots on goal. Still, he and the team couldn’t get them to go, while the Bruins proved opportunistic and cashed in.
As we know, when the offense is in a slump, Gerard Gallant loves to blend his lines. In Thursday’s episode, the second line of Panarin, Trocheck, and Vitali Kravtsov was broken apart, with Kravtsov playing the victim role and was demoted in place of Jimmy Vesey. “It’s not Kravy’s fault, Gerard Gallant said, “He’s part of the line, but they’ve got to be better than what they are.”
“It’s a good line offensively,” Gallant said when asked to elaborate in his postgame presser about his decision. “ But we need a lot more defensively. They’re our top players, and we need them. That’s where it’s at. They should have scored three or four goals tonight, but they could have given up four or five just as easily. And that’s not what coaches want.”
When Trocheck came here, fans and coaches fantasized about the potential magic he could create with the breadman, but that hasn’t happened through their 32 games together at even strength or on the power play.
THE POWERLESS PLAY:
The first unit’s dry spell expanded to 19 straight with the 0/3 night, yet we haven’t seen Gallant budge in personnel changes. However, Mika Zibanejad doesn’t think changes are necessary. “We’re getting there, but maybe more desperation around the net and attacking a little more.”
They tried on Thursday, but Boston’s top three penalty kill proved overwhelming, much like they were in the other facets of the game, which has become the norm in this season’s edition of NHL hockey. So where do the Rangers go from here? “We’ve seen what the best is,” said Barclay Goodrow, “ It’s up to us to build our game. It’s up to us to get up to their level.” Now, we’ll see how they’ll go about doing that.
In addition to Igor Shesterkin, Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox will be representing the Rangers at the February 3rd-4th All-Star weekend down in south Florida after the forward and defenseman were voted onto the Metropolitan division team by the fans, along with Islanders goaltender and Shesterkin’s good friend Ilya Sorokin.