After watching the New York Rangers lose to New Jersey then in overtime to Buffalo I was thinking what was in the minds of every Ranger fan. The good news is we were on the same wavelength as the coach.
Here’s what Gerard Gallant said in his postgame presser.”We clinched a week ago,” the head coach said. “It seems like because we clinched, we think the season is over. When Gallant added that the team “wasn’t playing the right way” he was clearly pointing to their slow starts. Falling behind early isn’t a recipe for playoff success and the Blueshirts have been awful in first periods lately. However, on Sunday afternoon,
However, on Sunday afternoon in Washington, the Capitals were on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention and never relinquished it en route to a 5-2 road victory. True, the Capitals are understaffed and on the verge of playoff elimination, but it was a convincing win.
The kid line looked in playoff form with two goals, Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves and had a season-high 3.35 Goals Saved Above Expected, and Gerard Gallant’s recent changes to the top six played their first full game together.
The win doesn’t do as much for the Rangers in the standings as they sit comfortably in third place in the Metropolitan division. Thursday’s 2-1 loss at the second-seeded New Jersey Devils all but officially dashed their hopes of climbing higher. Still, that doesn’t excuse the team from taking their foot off the gas as the coveted April 17th playoff start date nears and only emphasizes the importance of creating/maintaining good habits between now and then.
As previously noted by others on this site, the trio of Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko on that third line will be the x-factor come playoff time, with the Rangers and likely New Jersey Devils’ respective top six’s canceling each other out in terms of production.
So it was good to see them make plays that led to two of New York’s goals while defending effectively. “It’s not always about points, Lafreniere said, “It’s more the way we play. We try to play offense and be responsible defensively as much as we can. Just try to play correctly, and the points will come after.” The Blueshirts struck first when K’Andre Miller wisely crashed the net for the finish after Darcey Kuemper let a rebound off a Vincent Trocheck backhander leak across the slot. That’s when the kids took over and Lafreniere dipped into his bag of tricks.
Following a takeaway and a completed drop pass from Chytil before the 21-year-old took the puck, put it between his legs to get around the defender, and roofed it over Darcy Kuemper to complete what will be a candidate for Blueshirts’ goal of the year.
The tally gave Laffy six points in his last five games, as the winger has turned things around ever since he was a healthy scratch back on December 29th. At that time, he had an unimpressive five goals and 17 points in 36 games. Since the benching, he has had 11 goals and 21 points in 40 games.
The unit continued their strong play in the second period, recording another goal when as usual, Kakko refused to let himself get knocked off. the puck then found K’Andre Miller, who drew the defense towards him before feeding Kakko in front. His 16th goal was a career-high while Miller’s assist was his 41st point of the season, second among Ranger blueliners to Adam Fox (68).
That makes this year the first time the Rangers have had two defensemen with 40 points since Sergei Zubov and Brian Leetch in 1993-94. Miller’s assist gave him 40 points on the season, making it the first time the Rangers had two 40+ point d-men, Sergei Zubov and Brian Leetch, in 1993-94. The Kid Line has combined for 18 points in the last five games and Gallant rewarded them Sunday as they started the game and played 12:49 minutes at 5v5, most of any line.
Return of the Line Blender:
Given New York’s recent play before the weekend, it was assumed the top six was set in stone at least until the postseason. Yet all it took was two putrid periods against Buffalo for changes to be made. Gallant’s latest line blending saw Vincent Trocheck alongside Artemi Panarin and Vladimir Tarasenko, while Mika Zibanejad flanked Chris Kreider and Patrick Kane.
Washington narrowed the lead to 3-1 when Dylan Strome banked one off of Shesterkin with 6:37 left in the second period. Tarasenko restored the Rangers’ three-goal lead. A snipe off a Trocheck takeaway and a Panarin pass made it 4-1, 5:53 into the third period, serving as the line’s second of the afternoon following Miller’s opening marker.
While the Kreider, Zibanejad, and Kane trio didn’t score at even strength, they did connect on the power play with 5:46 remaining when Kane found Zibanejad across the crease after his initial shot was stopped. Mika tapped it in for his team-leading 39th goal of the season and his 20th on-the-man advantage. Zibanejad’s goal came ninety seconds after a Capitals’ flurry of seven consecutive shot attempts ended when Aliaskei Protas roofed a puck over Shesterkin to get the score to 4-2.
MARV’S 3 STARS:
1 K’Andre Miller( One goal, one assist, +3 rating, one block, 6.05 game score in 19:47 of ice time)
2 Artemi Panarin(3 assists, 3.76 game score in 16:52 of ice time)
3 Vincent Trocheck( Two assists, four shots, 77.8 faceoff win percentage, 3.74 Game score in 15.25 of ice time
Jacob Trouba( One assist, +4 rating, two shots, one hit, two blocks, one takeaway in 20:20 of ice time)
Filip Chytil(One assist, one block, one takeaway, four shots, 3.25 Game Score in 16:35 of ice time).
BLS COMMENT OF THE DAY:
“The Mika-Tarasenko-Panarin line was working better than these lines. You will be seeing a lot of Gallant tinkering. The team can afford to experiment; now is the time to do it. So, cut them so slack, better to find out what works and what doesn’t now and not in three weeks.” -Steve Paulus.