Sometimes, you can outplay an opponent and not get the desired result. Such was the case during last night’s 2-0 Rangers loss to the Flyers on Rivalry Night. They just didn’t take advantage of the chances they created in a strong first half. Combined with poor special teams and a scintillating performance from Steve Mason, who made 34 saves for his first shutout of the season, it added up to a disappointing home defeat to enter the All-Star break.
I haven’t attended many games. I believe this was my third of the season and first in 2017. So, naturally I came away disappointed that they couldn’t score one goal on Mason, who entered with a save percentage below .900. That’s hockey. Most notably, it also typifies Mason’s career. At times, he can be really on and at others, he can’t stop a beach ball. He was the difference stopping 27 of the Rangers’ 36 shots in the first two periods.
Some were utterly brilliant with Mason committing highway robbery a couple of times. Michael Grabner was victimized twice point blank. It wasn’t his night. The Rangers’ leading goalscorer also had a breakaway but after struggling to retrieve the puck, he fired a laser off the crossbar. Not only did it go wrong for him offensively. But defensively as well with him messing up on Wayne Simmonds’ power play game-winner with 13:51 left in the third period. He also accidentally kicked in Jakub Voracek’s insurance marker by Henrik Lundqvist. Just from watching from up in 419, I could tell that was a weird one.
To be honest, it was an odd game. There were hardly any whistles in a very fast paced first that saw the Rangers double up the Flyers in shots 16-8. It was entertaining to watch. Plenty of skating and rushes. But it was the home team that controlled puck possession and had the better of the play. Despite Mason leaving some rebounds on long shots, they couldn’t solve him. He was really on.
The first half of the second was similar. Even though they didn’t register as many shots getting to 11 compared to the Flyers’ eight, there were some golden opportunities. They got the only two power plays in the period. The first was decent. But the second was god awful. They kept turning over pucks and losing battles. They made it too easy on the Flyers.
When they did test Mason, he was unreal. He made two terrific stops on deflections with Chris Kreider just missing. The puck hit Mason or missed the net. The Rangers couldn’t finish. It reminded me of the old Stone Hands Line that consisted of Ryan Hollweg and Jed Ortmeyer with Dominic Moore. With apologies to Moore who still plays in Boston, Hollweg and Ortmeyer could sometimes have great chances and fail to score. Ortmeyer still remains one of my favorite Blueshirts. I have his jersey. Maybe if I had worn it instead of the Jaromir Jagr, they might’ve won. Hockey superstitions.
Entering the third, the Flyers played better at the end of the second finally testing Lundqvist, who had another good effort making 24 stops with neither goal his fault. Looking at the game sheet, I figured the Flyers were due for a power play. Given that the Rangers had the only two over the first two periods, you knew it was coming. And the way it had been played, it figured that once they got it, they would score. Sure enough, Simmonds found himself in front of the net to finish off his 20th from Brayden Schenn and Voracek. He’s always killed us. So, it was expected.
The Flyers clogged the neutral zone and forced the Rangers into sloppy turnovers. They never really gave the impression they could beat Mason. With Philadelphia in lock down mode following Voracek’s goal, it was basically over.
If there was a disturbing sign, it was this. It was the Flyers who managed the puck better. They out-hustled, out-muscled and outplayed the Rangers in the third to earn a second consecutive win.
We didn’t leave until Ryan McDonagh took a penalty with 41 seconds left. Mats Zuccarello had taken a silly one for going at a Flyer and delivering a hit into the boards for interference. Zuccarello was ornery. He also got in the face of another Flyer during a scrum challenging him. It’s sad that the little guy is the one to step up.
One Ranger who had a good game was Matt Puempel. Though his penalty led to Simmonds goal which was a total butcher job by the penalty kill. Puempel created chances by using his speed to go to the net and get in position for a couple of redirects. He finished with three shots and five attempts in 19 shifts (13:09). I would’ve loved to see Alain Vigneault give Puempel more than one brief 24-second power play shift in the third. They had nothing going. Jimmy Vesey received 3:05 while J.T. Miller got only two seconds. Inexplicable.
Vesey is clearly struggling. His ice-time has been cut dramatically. Maybe the next few days off will help him refresh for next week’s home match against the Blue Jackets. Oscar Lindberg saw only 11 shifts for 7:11 all at even strength. This despite being one of the few forwards to come back defensively. Why even dress him coach?
It is what it is. It was sad to get shutout by the Flyers. The Rangers had a 34-26 edge in shots and out-attempted them 69-48. None of that mattered. Mason stoned them.