It was a late-night start at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night as the Rangers hosted the struggling Vancouver Canucks. Sitting in Section 224, Row 7, I was right on center ice as the puck dropped for this important game. Every game down this stretch is important for the Rangers as they look to keep up in the Metropolitan Division and while this game was not the best performance for the Rangers, there were a few things that stood out as I was watching from my seat.
The Kid Line was the best line for the Rangers yet again and getting to see them dominate in person was very exciting to see. Filip Chytil continued his hot streak by scoring another goal, his 19th of the season. He was screwed over by the refs at the end when he should have received the empty net goal, but he played amazing again. Alexis Lafreniere also got his second goal in as many games by deflecting the shot by Jacob Trouba.
Putting Lafreniere back with Chytil and Kaapo Kakko has given him back the confidence that he was lacking for the majority of this season. Kakko also played well by adding an assist on the Chytil goal. This entire line really played a dominant game and that is not surprising they will look to continue their dominance as the season goes on.
One negative from the game was the play of Ben Harpur and the fourth line. Harpur played a little over 11 minutes and was a -1. He was noticeably benched for the majority of the second period and for parts of the third. Harpur is a stopgap for the team as they will be looking for another depth defenseman before the trade deadline on March 3. He has been decent for the Rangers but has also had his bad moments, which happened last night on the Canucks first goal.
Both he and the fourth line were on when Quinn Hughes walked through all of them 4 on 1 and set up Conor Garland for the goal. The fourth line also saw very little playing time due to poor play and today, Will Cuylle was sent back to Hartford to get more playing time. The line with him, Sammy Blais, and Jake Leschyshyn have been non-factors in the games played together. It looks like Julian Gauthier or Vitali Kravtsov will be back in the lineup for Friday’s game.
One more thing that was noticeable was the Rangers would have moments where the defense looked nonexistent. It was very clear after the Rangers made it 4-2, then the Canucks answered right back seconds later. The Rangers were sloppy and slow in their own zone and Elias Pettersson was able to walk right in and knock the puck away from Igor Shesterkin.
The Rangers were able to get through the 6 on 5, but it was very much a scramble for the Rangers to clear the puck out. They were able to end the period on the power play, but it could have been different if the Rangers were not as lucky in the defensive zone.
Overall, it was a very less exciting game compared to the game vs the Flames on Monday, but it was a game that showed that the Rangers still have some flaws they need to work on. The defensive side of the game needs work and some players need to step up their games if they want to stay on the team. There were positives like K’Andre Miller’s three-point game and The Kids, but this game was a sign that improvements need to be made.