Game Review: Rangers lose tough one to Blackhawks 5-3


Panarin Bread: Artemi Panarin gets congrats from Patrick Kane and the Hawks in their 5-3 win over the Rangers. AP Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

When it ended, I was furious. If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I was ticked off by this loss. Slice it any way you want. The way the Rangers lost to the Blackhawks in a NBCSN ratings induced #RivalryNight sucked. I don’t use that word much because it’s so passe. But it certainly applies after having a victory ripped away by three unanswered goals from the defending champs in a frustrating 5-3 loss at The Garden.

Instead of doing a traditional recap, I’m going to do some bulletin points. Here are some takeaways from the Hawks using Artemi Panarin’s hat trick (2 PPG, ENG) to stun the Blueshirts:

1.After giving up the only goal (Andrew Desjardins) in the first despite out-shooting their opponent a misleading 10-6, the Rangers did a lot of good things at even strength. When they were allowed to play 5-on-5, they dictated the pace taking the play to the Hawks with a relentless forecheck that included pinching D. Oddly enough, they only scored once at even strength with Kevin Hayes getting them on the board following a superb pass from Oscar Lindberg which went through Michal Rozsival’s skates for a nice finish that cut it to 2-1.

2.Speaking of Hayes, the goal was his 10th. His play is finally trending upward. The former Hawks’ first round pick has been more noticeable during shifts holding onto the puck more and generating a cycle with linemates Lindberg and Viktor Stalberg. They still don’t play enough. It’s nice to see Purple Hayes having an impact. He also set up Dan Boyle’s power play goal in the 3rd that put them ahead.

3.The Power Play connected twice making it three consecutive games they have done so. Amazingly, on a hi-sticking double minor assessed to Vincent Hinostroza (pronounce that 3 times fast) that Dominic Moore drew at 19:34 of the second resulted in our beloved Blueshirts actually cashing in on both ends with POWER PLAY GOALS! The first came off the hot stick of Derick Brassard, who hit 20 for the first time in his career. He’s trending upwards (18 in ’14, 19 in ’15, 20 so far in ’16). A great entry by Mats Zuccarello led to Chris Kreider and Keith Yandle making great passes for a perfect Brassard shot past Corey Crawford that tied it 24 seconds into the third.

The second half featured a fantastic keep from the ever emerging J.T. Miller which tired out the Hawks’ penalty killers. Eventually, Miller and Hayes combined to set up Boyle who took a Hayes cross-ice feed in front and had two whacks at it with the second one pushing the puck in for another PPG at 2:17 which gave the Blueshirts a 3-2 lead.

4.In his first game back from a concussion, Ryan McDonagh was solid at even strength with Dan Girardi. Matched up most of the night against the Patrick Kane/Artem Anisimov/Panarin line, they did a good job limiting time and space against the league’s best scoring line. At 5-on-5, the Kane unit were a combined minus-25 against the tandem of McDonagh/Girardi (+37) in shot differential. That’s astounding. McDonagh led the Blueshirts in total shifts (35) and was second in ice-time (24:06) trailing only Keith Yandle (25:45). Girardi received 33 shifts (20:16) including 16:43 ES and 3:33 shorthanded.

5.The problem was the penalty kill was a tire fire without Marc Staal, whose wife Lindsay gave birth to baby daughter Emily Jennifer Staal. They allowed 3 PPG’s in 4 chances to the supremely skilled Hawks. That included Andrew Shaw’s game-tying goal with 10:07 left on a weak holding minor on Stalberg. It also included Panarin’s game-winner with three minutes left on a abysmal “holding” call on Yandle, who battled Jonathan Toews behind the net. It wasn’t much. That said, the PK has to get the job done at that crucial point. A brutal way to lose even if the refs decided the outcome. When Henrik Lundqvist disagrees with how it was officiated, you know it’s bad. The Hawks got 4 power plays while the Rangers got their lone 2 on the double-minor they also converted.

6.One further point on the PK. Follower Madison Miller raised a good point on not having Rick  Nash, who also is a key forward on the penalty kill. No doubt a bad unit misses him. He and Derek Stepan have great chemistry and are always a threat shorthanded. Plus if Nash ever returns, maybe the Daniel Paille ‘experiment’ finally ends. He was caught puck watching on Shaw’s PPG. For as good as they were 5-on-5, Girardi and McDonagh struggled on the PK. They got the bulk with the captain getting 3:49 to Danny G’s 3:33 while Kevin Klein had 2:27. Curiously, Dylan McIlrath got 1:39 of his 11:10 (17 shifts) on the PK. More on that in the next point.

7.Regarding McIlrath and Alain Vigneault’s unwillingness to play him, it’s puzzling. He’s clearly a more defensively responsible defenseman than Boyle, who was at fault on Desjardins’ goal. Granted. Big Mac didn’t have a good first against the speedy Hawks. He struggled on one shift to clear a loose puck away from the crease. However, only getting one shift the final half of the second (credit NYDNews’ Pat Leonard) is ridiculous. Unless he was hurt as some followers speculated, it makes no sense. Unlike most of the blueline, McIlrath has size and strength to protect the front which explains why AV uses him on the PK. But if he’s not gonna play regularly, it’s a waste. That’s on the coach.

8.The downside is the fourth line. Yet AV continues to send them even doing so in a tie game with six minutes remaining. Dominic Moore is dragged down by Paille and Tanner Glass, who for the most part has been a positive this season. He even set up a opportunity. Unfortunately, there’s no rational explanation for Vigneault having the fourth line against Chicago’s top line or versus Toews’ unit on home ice. It’s bad usage. Not shockingly, the fourth line were on the negative side of the ledger at even strength going a combined minus-14 in shot differential. They’re receiving too much ice-time at the expense of the more effective third line.

9.Shot differential: Rangers had the edge out-shooting the Blackhawks 34-20 and out-attempting them 63-38. That kind of discrepancy and they lost due to the PK.

10.Lundqvist gave up 4 goals on 19 shots. Before the game, Rick Carpiniello tweeted that he’d been on a hot streak. Since I put the jinx on Cory Schneider, I referenced it in response. What do you know. Hank gives up 4. Though not much fault on any including a Panarin long wrist shot on the man-advantage with old pal Artem Anisimov screening. The other three Hawks’ goals all came from in front on set ups due to poor coverage.

11.Girardi had an apparent tying goal reversed correctly due to Kreider interfering with Crawford. A great challenge by Hawks’ coach Joel Quenneville.

12.It’s onto Toronto tonight for the second end of a back-to-back. They should get Staal back. Nash remains week-to-week with the mysterious bone bruise. Unfortunately, McIlrath will come out. Boyle will stay in. Especially after scoring on the power play. It is what it is.

13.Bottom line. Vigneault has put his trust in the vets. Ultimately, it will be his downfall if the core with Yandle for at least this year don’t get it done.

14.Minus two key pieces (Nash, Staal), tonight was encouraging rather than discouraging.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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