Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and if Thursday’s uninspiring Rangers 4-1 loss at Little Caesars Arena gives any indication, Chris Druy should pull the trigger on a potential Patrick Kane trade sooner rather than later so the attention can turn back to the Blueshrts snapping their three-game skid. The group was flat soft and underwhelming, allowing the burgeoning Red Wings to move into the Eastern Conference’s second Wild Card slot with the victory.
The defeat is the Blueshirts’ third straight, their longest slide of the season. Combined with the New Jersey Devils’ 4-3 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, they are six points behind their chief rivals for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
A lack of urgency:
The Rangers were sized up all evening long as they were outhit 22-12 and outworked defensively, with Red Wings racking up 22 blocked shots and disrupting New York’s East-West passes by getting sticks in lanes.
New York’s poor defensive coverage led to Detroit garnering waves of odd-man rushes, which included ex-Blueshirt Andrew Copp sliding one past Jaroslav Halak at 15:33 of the first period for the game’s first strike kicking off his three-point evening.
Then, 130 seconds after Vincent Trocheck tied the score at 6:06 of the second by forcing a turnover at center ice before snapping the puck past Detroit goaltender Ville Husso, Filip Zadina pounced on Tyler Motte’s third consecutive giveaway and gave the Red Wings the lead for good. Following the tally, New York peppered Husso’s net, but the goaltender stood firm with 30 saves, none bigger than his net front robbery on Adam Fox, as he extended his left pad to keep the disc out.
Yet instead of taking the momentum into the locker room, a defensive lapse in the neutral zone turned into a Wings rush attempt, where Halak stoned David Perron. Still, Drew Rasmussen was left uncovered by Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller and bolted to the slot for an easy tap-in, extending Detroit’s advantage to 3-1.
“Not good enough,” said Rangers coach Gerard Gallant stated regarding his team’s effort, correctly seeing that his team outshot the Red Wings 31-23, “We didn’t play hard enough for 60 minutes. What bothered me was some of those goals they scored off the rush. We had bad reads, leaving them wide open. Two of the goals were unnecessary goals for me.”
The unspecial teams:
Rangers special teams coach Mike Kelly should go back to the drawing board after watching this game because a power play with this plethora of talent shouldn’t be getting outworked, especially with their newest acquisitions in all-star Vladimir Tarasenko and the penalty-killing specialists that are Motte and Niko Mikkola.
Akin to Monday’s 4-1 defeat against the Winnipeg Jets, the lack of offensive production on the man advantage played a vital role in the final result. An additional two New York power plays came and went without much to show for it, while Detroit potted a power play goal when Filip Hronek rifled one home at 4:51 of the third, effectively putting the contest out of reach. The Blueshirts’ man advantage dropped out of the top 10, falling to 12th overall with a 22.7% conversion rate, and the penalty kills 16th at 79.3%.
Kravtsov, Leschyshyn Scratched; Patrick Kane to Broadway?
Before the puck dropped, Vitali Kravtsov and Jake Leschyshyn were made unavailable for play due to “roster management reasons, ” forcing the team to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
It opened the door for Ben Harpur to suit up after the blueliner spent the last five games in street clothes, something he’s become accustomed to since being replaced in the lineup by the newly acquired Mikkola, who arrived alongside Tarasenko from the trade with the ST Louis Blues. While Leschyshyn has been a fourth-line staple since the Rangers claimed him on January 11th, he’s been mostly doing cardio and has been ineffective.
Kravtsov hasn’t played since February 10th, with Gallant saying he “Hasn’t seen enough” from the 23-year-old, and is reportedly wanted by the Chicago Blackhawks in a potential Kane deal. Talks reportedly intensified between the two clubs on Thursday afternoon, but New York has yet to make available the necessary cap space to land showtime potentially.
The first step is to waive Leschyshyn by the end of this weekend, which is the waiver-exempt deadline, then Kravtsov and a third team must be included in the deal to make things work. It would allow the Rangers to acquire Kane and stay under the salary cap by paying the winger 25%($2.625 million) of his $10.5 million salary, with Chicago retaining 50% and the broker paying the remaining 25%. As Larry Brooks of the New York Post noted, the Minnesota Wild could serve as the final piece to the puzzle, as they have previously helped the Maple Leafs acquire Ryan O Reilly from ST Louis last Friday.
The Wild also helped the Boston Bruins with Thursday’s Dmitry Orlov trade, which saw the veteran defenseman go to the B’s with 50% of his $5.1 million cap hit retained by the Washington Capitals, and forward Garnet Hathaway in exchange for forward Craig Smith, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2025 2nd round pick, and a 2024 third-round pick, while Minnesota acquired a future Boston fifth-round pick as compensation for taking on 25% of Orlov’s salary.
Per Patrick’s agent, the 34-year-old forward, who has 45 points in 54 games this season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent this Summer, “Hasn’t officially decided on where he wants to go.” However, he did openly express his interest in becoming a Blueshirt following their acquisition of Tarasenko. “It’s not the happiest I’ve been to hear about a trade,” Kane said at the time, “If things are going to happen, that was a team I was looking at.”
If it’s “Rangers or bust” regarding Kane and him waiving his no-move-clause, New York would have the leverage and can likely retain their 2023 first-round pick and top prospect Brennan Othman, while Kravtsov, Zac Jones, and a second-round selection could instead be the assets heading the other way.
Yet regardless of whether or not Patrick Kane is a New York Ranger before the March 3rd trade deadline, thus creating a dynamic top six of him with Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Trocheck, and Tarasenko, it doesn’t excuse the teams’ recent defensive woes, as they’ve surrendered 19 goals over their last five games and when you’re not scoring at the other end, those loom large.
“We’re not happy,” Zibanejad said after the game, “Think about it, be upset about it tonight, and get ready to go on Saturday(Afternoon) in Washington.”