Cap-Cursed Blueshirts: Rangers Struggle to Escape Hexes Against Capitals

The New York Rangers dropped consecutive games for the first time all season. A 4-0 defeat to the rival Washington Capitals as defensive woes persist. Charlie Lindgren's shutout, odd-man rush struggles, left the Blueshirts handcuffed.
New York Rangers v Washington Capitals
New York Rangers v Washington Capitals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

The New York Rangers dropped consecutive games for the first time all season. A 4-0 defeat to the rival Washington Capitals as defensive woes persist. Charlie Lindgren's shutout, odd-man rush struggles, left the Blueshirts handcuffed.

Well, the New York Rangers have hit a of a rough patch, dropping two in a row and being shutout for the first time this season. The Washington Capitals handed them a solid 4-0 beating in the nation's capital on Saturday. Despite their blazing 18-6-1 start, it seems like there are some defensive cracks showing up lately. In the last seven games, they've let in four goals or more five times. It’s not ideal, especially when you consider the Capitals rank 31st of 32 in scoring. "We didn't play with enough grit and attitude to come out with a win", lamented Vincent Trocheck. That was the evening in a nutshell.

Chasing the contest: 

Tonight was the 4th straight game the Blueshirts gave up the first goal. The Capitals entered 31st in the league in scoring. Yet New York gave them some good chances early. It was all Washington who struck first 43 seconds into the contest, with Sonny Milano snapping his seven-game pointless streak, finishing a Martin Feheravry feed across the slot to make it 1-0 Caps. Then it was deja vuin in the second period. The Rangers opened the middle frame by killing off a late Johnny Brodzinki penalty but immediately gave up a goal to Anthony Mantha. He was all alone in the slot andtippedhomean Evgeny Kuznetsov feed as the power play expired. While it’s not officially a goal by the NHL’s worst-man advantage, it felt like one.  

Rangers Struggle to Plug the Odd-Man Rush Leak:

The Rangers kept it tight in the first 18 games, allowing just 2.22 goals per game. Fast forward six games, and it's a different story – they gave up 25 goals, averaging 4.17 each time.

It seemed like the initial 1-3-1 defensive magic from Coach Peter Laviolette is gone: Forechecking, backchecking, D-zone breakouts – it's all been hit or miss lately. Turnovers are up, and critical areas like the neutral zone, slot, and net front aren't as protected as they used to be.

Yet the most significant problem has been Defending odd-man rushes. The Rangers have gone from second-best to one of the worst in the league. A month ago, they were shining, but now, they are dead last in expected goals against off-the-rush at 5v5 since Nov. 10.

The Rangers struggled with too much open ice in losses against the Blue Jackets, Wild, and Senators. Pucks were finding their way behind jerseys. Even in wins against the Predators and Sharks, chances were surrendered, leaving goaltenders Shesterkin and Jonathan Quick on an island.
The latest chapter? A 3-0 deficit against the Capitals, thanks to a deep misstep by K'Andre Miller and a non-passing Tom Wilson in a 2-on-1 situation. It became 4-0 minutes later, when the Capitals used their speed to enter the zone and went to work. That was where an Erik Gustafsson clearing attempt was stopped, and Nicolas-Aube-Kubel pounced by beating Shesterkin from the left circle. While the argument could be made that Shesterkin could've had those, the more significant issue is the defense, notably the Miller- Jacob Trouba pair who were a -3 on the night.

Rangers Get Lindgren'd:

You knew Capitals goaltender Charlie Lindgren would be dialed in, especially since he was facing his younger brother Ryan. "If Ryan scores, that would probably be the death of me, I think", he said. "That's not a joke. That would torment me." Lindgren stopped New York's defenseman three times as part of his 25 save shutout with a +1.98 goals saved above expected. He stoned the Artemi Panarin-Vincent Trocheck-Alexis Lafreniere line, who combined for seven shots on goal. He also got some heat from the Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad- Johnny Brodzinki line but stopped all six shots from them. Offensively, it was another night where the Rangers offense went quiet when their second line couldn't score. 

Lindgren was barely challenged by the Will Cuylle-Nick Bonnino- Blake Wheeler line, as they were outshot 8-1. There wasn't enough urgency by the Blueshirts, who were outworked and outskated by the Caps (13-8-3), who if you didn't know any better would think they're in first place. It's not a great sign considering the red-hot Los Angeles Kings (16-4-4), who had won an NHL-record 11straight road games and went 136 minutes without allowing a goal before blowing a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York. Islanders (12-7-7) on Saturday ,enter Madison Square Garden. Conversely, there is no better team to snap yourselves out of a rut against, right?
"It was not good from the start to the finish", head coach Peter Laviolette, who was booed in his return to DC said. "No sense dissecting it here publicly. We’ve got a game tomorrow night, and we'll need to be a lot better."