In a word, the depleted New York Rangers falling 4-2 against the league-leading 49-8-5 Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday was expected. The Blueshirts kept things interesting despite being short a forward in Tyler Motte and two defensemen in K’Andre Miller(suspended) and Ryan Lindgren(Injured) courtesy of two tallies from Alexis Lafreniere and a solid performance in goal from Igor Shesterkin, considering the dire circumstances.
Ultimately despite New York’s valiant efforts, the result was their sixth loss in the past eight games, while the rampaging B’s won their 10th straight contest and sixth in nine days, clinching a three-game season series sweep of their original six rivals.
BATTERED & BRUIN’D:
No matter what the Rangers tried, Boston upped them in every facet of the game, as they’ve done to virtually every team they’ve played this season.
The Blueshirts began the contest by taking the play at the B’s, with Jacob Trouba flattening Tomas Nosek at the Bruins’ blueline. Still, Boston adjusted and used their speed to minimize the physicality. Boston stuck with it and out-willed New York when they looked to out-skill and outskate them. At the same time, Vezina-favorite Linus Ullmark outplayed reigning Vezina-winner Igor Shesterkin in the nets, as the Bruins eventually wore the undermanned Rangers down before pulling away late in the third period to seal the hard-fought victory.
“Some good, a lot of bad,” Blueshirts coach Gerard Gallant said when assessing the contest, reiterating the defensive lapses by the teams’ forwards, who collectively failed to win battles down low, forecheck and aid their exasperated defense corps. “They’re one of the best teams in history,” being the fastest team to 100 points, captain Trouba said, “We wanted to play our best game against them and played well, but came up short.”
SHOWTIME, A NO-SHOW:
When teams struggle to find chemistry as the revamped Rangers are now, there will be growing pains, and as a result, New York fans have seen the downside of their newest attraction in Patrick Kane.
While the 34-year-old being here deepens the roster and strengthens their firepower on the offensive side of the puck, his defensive deficiencies also come along with it. When you are down two of your better defenseman, it’s bound to show.
Two games in, Kane and his linemate Artemi Panarin have quickly learned succeeding together will be more challenging than it was in Chicago six years ago, especially when you’re a part of the gauntlet in a robust Eastern Conference. Nobody is doubting they’ll start meshing sometime over the next 19 games, and Kane needs time to feel comfortable in his new surroundings before the playoffs arrive, but for the moment, they’re only out there doing cardio.
Meanwhile, Boston’s most recent trade acquisition, forward Tyler Bertuzzi, who the team acquired on Thursday before the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 2024 third-round pick, wasn’t even a Bruin for an entire period before he recorded his first point in his new uniform.
After dumping the puck into the offensive zone leading to a foot race won by his teammate Trent Fredric who beat out Braden Schneider, he received the disc behind the cage, preceding a pass to the slot, which found the blade of Charlie Coyle, who shot it through Shesterkin’s five-hole goal with 1:53 remaining in the maiden period for first tally since January 28th, and a 1-0 Boston lead.
Yet as time expired, Bertuzzi was boxed for slashing Panarin, giving New York a chance to iron out the kinks of a power play that went scoreless in 11 minutes of ice time in Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden.
Kane began drifting up the ice as his teammates searched for a lane that would lead to a defensive zone breakout for a scoring opportunity on the man advantage. Still, he failed to adapt when Chris Kreider was taken down by Nosek, forcing a turnover before being defeated in a one-on-one battle. Nosek took Coyle’s feed and outwaited a diving Shesterkin before sliding it past him to double the Boston lead.
Yet the Rangers would break the dry spell when Lafreniere deflected Trouba’s point shot past Ullmark, pulling them to within 2-1, where the score would stay entering the third period.
The final stanza began with both teams trading chances, but Linus Ullmark and Igor Shesterkin stood tall. As the period continued, the Bruins overpowered the Blueshirts with their relentless offensive zone forecheck and were rewarded at the 12:56 mark, when they received an insurance tally from captain Patrice Bergeron, who scored from the slot off of passes from Brad Marchand and recent trade acquisition Dmitry Orlov, who recorded his ninth point in his last four games.
It was another tally charged to the Kane-Trocheck-Panarin line, as the trio finished the day a -2 in their second game together while being outshot 3-1 in 14:01 of ice time.
A coach will always reward a player who works hard no matter the score, which is what Lafreniere did before being rewarded for it on the scoresheet. With his team trailing 4-1 after David Pasternak’s rifle past Shesterkin(20 saves on 24 shots) with 3:20 remaining put the game out of reach, Lafreniere skipped a shot past Ullmark, who stopped 24 shots for his league-leading 32nd victory for his second of the afternoon.
With the team down a forward in Tyler Motte, who left Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury, the 21-year-old double-shifted, skating with Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow, in addition to his regular kid line and second power-play unit minutes. In 17 shifts which accumulated to 13:28 of ice time, Lafreniere had two goals on four shots, tying his career high with his 31st point of the season.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT:
The Rangers’ constant roster reshuffling, injuries, and Kane’s arrival, all of which have come in the last week, have disrupted their cohesion, something that can only be improved on with practice. “They’re at the top of the league now, and that’s where we want to be,” Schneider said postgame, “I think we can skate with them, and I think we can play with them.
I think we gave them a good run today, and I’m excited for us to get clicking and get some guys back because I think we can give them a good run for their money.” They’ll have a few days to find themselves and heal before the real work begins Thursday at the Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens.