The Rangers have plenty to be thankful for. Playing in a mediocre division, they’ve survived without captain Ryan McDonagh. If there’s one thing they won’t appreciate, it’s the way former captain Ryan Callahan has treated them. In two games so far, he’s scored four goals on Henrik Lundqvist. For the season, he has 10. Forty percent have come against his former buddy in two Lightning wins. Tampa Bay defeated the Rangers 4-3 snapping a two-game win streak. So much for winning three straight.
With his team trailing 2-1, Callahan tallied twice putting the Bolts in front for good. For good measure, Nikita Kucherov scored again resulting in the game-winner as Tampa held on. Rick Nash made things interesting notching his team-leading 15th with 7:11 remaining. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough. An ill timed Chris Kreider offensive zone penalty killed their chances with under 30 seconds remaining. So goes the inconsistency for Kreider. The Lightning ran out the clock.
Unfortunately, the Rangers see them again December 1 a week before my birthday. And no. I’m not going. Who wants to see Callahan torch them for two more? Anyone want to take bets? All four of his goals have come from in front. Whether you attribute that to playing with Steven Stamkos or our lack of D without McDonagh, it’s ugly. In two games, Callahan has made a living and probably driven home his point to Alain Vigneault. Vigneault is the coach who took him off the power play and dropped him to the third line.
It is what it is. On what was supposed to be Marty St. Louis’ special night, it was again about a former Ranger who came to play. Similar to Callahan, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman, St. Louis got a video tribute after the first TV timeout. I didn’t see it. I’ll try to catch the replay after work tomorrow in between football. Unlike Callahan’s return, St. Louis was held off the score sheet. It wasn’t for lack of effort. He came very close to tying it following a beauty by Nash. It just wasn’t meant to be.
I’ll be honest and say I missed the first two periods due to work. However, I caught the third. I also saw plenty of angry tweets at Marc Staal, who apparently had a miserable night. He was victimized by Callahan. Tanner Glass also caught the brunt of it for being on for two goals against. It was his giveaway that led directly to Kucherov scoring off a double deflection for the coup de grace.
At this juncture of the season, the Rangers are what they are. An inconsistent puzzle missing its best defenseman. When they play the Flyers twice in a classic home-and-home starting Black Friday and concluding Saturday, will McDonagh make all the difference? Defensively, this team struggles with fast skating teams who play gritty. The Lightning qualify there. The Rangers haven’t figured them out yet. In a week, McDonagh will be back for the next meeting. Will it have a different end result? We’ll have to wait and see.
They have played 21 games and are 9-8-4. That’s still good enough for a share of third with the Capitals, who fell to the red hot Islanders in overtime on a highlight reel goal from John Tavares. Right now, they trail the Islanders and Penguins by 10 points. At a quarter in, there’s a lot of hockey to be played. Once McDonagh returns, the Rangers will be fully healthy. Vigneault faces a decision. Keep Matt Hunwick in or stick with the wildly inconsistent John Moore. He also must decide on Glass, who continues to play. Lee Stempniak was a healthy scratch tonight. That is absurd on so many levels. Vigneault can bench Jesper Fast or finally give Glass a night in the press box.
Scoring isn’t the issue. The Rangers got three past Ben Bishop, who usually owns them. However, they still found a way to lose. There were positives. Dan Boyle had his best game scoring his first on the power play. He was all over the ice jumping in on the rush. Exactly what you want to see. Derek Stepan continued to put up points, assisting on Boyle’s marker. Stepan has been pretty good since returning. Mats Zuccarello scored his fourth. He needs to start finishing. So, that’s also a good sign. Anthony Duclair looks more confident. Maybe it’ll work between him, Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin. If it does, then Vigneault must fix the fourth line.
Personally, I feel that they’re missing something. Larry Brooks had a good piece on the potential butchering of J.T. Miller. Miller is playing center for Hartford. But that’s not where he fits here. Especially with Hayes impressing Vigneault. Miller deserves a second chance. He has size and physical tools this team lacks. Subtracting Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett has taken away some of the edge. Boyle might not have been overly physical but he played with passion and was a PK fixture. Dorsett is much better than Glass. Though I’m told he was never returning.
The current roster isn’t as deep. It’s also weaker defensively. They signed Boyle for his offense and lost Anton Stralman’s defense. Ironically, he continues to produce and play like a top defenseman. In case you hadn’t noticed, the Lightning are also without their top D. Last I checked, Victor Hedman was every bit as good as McDonagh. The difference is the Bolts are way deeper and more talented. They also have Stamkos, who again feasted scoring a power play goal and assisting on two others.
As for Lundqvist, there really wasn’t much he could’ve done. His D did a terrible job in front. That’s been the case far too much. McDonagh or no McDonagh. There’s enough experience to prevent that. Maybe Vigneault needs to spend a bit more time preaching defense. One other point. When does he finally send a message to Kreider? Kreider’s play has been puzzling. He isn’t the same player. He could use a kick in the ass.