I’m not gonna bother summarizing that lifeless performance the Rangers gave. For two periods, they were awful in what amounted to a lopsided 4-1 loss on home ice against the Canadiens, who swept the season series.
Just wonderful. Your most likely first round opponent humiliated you at MSG with their more defensive style under much better coach Claude Julien with key additions Steve Ott, Andreas Martinsen and Dwight King key factors. The new Habs finished every check. They won every battle. Their 35 hits forced the Rangers into some brutal turnovers. They had 14 giveaways compared to Montreal’s six. That stat was every bit indicative of what transpired.
Henrik Lundqvist was both good and bad. At times, he made some big saves to keep the game from getting out of hand. At other inopportune moments, he was at fault with the second and third Montreal goals ones he would’ve liked back. Why doesn’t the coaching staff tell Lundqvist never to come out and play the puck? He’s awful at it. His misplay led directly the the Habs’ second goal from Artturi Lekkonen.
On the third goal, he took an accidental stick from teammate Brady Skjei and it affected him. He never recovered as Adam Clendening had a nice view of the annoying Andrew Shaw scoring on an easy wrap around. It wasn’t one of Clendening’s better nights. He was on for three goals against and coughed up the puck twice. He’s a good puck possession player with offensive capabilities. But against a physical team that can forecheck, he can be exposed just as badly as our vets who get all the blame.
I’m pinning it entirely on Dan Girardi. Why not? All kidding aside, a game like tonight is where you actually miss his battle level. Everyone’s favorite Marc Staal had another struggle with Nick Holden. It’s sad to see Staal at this level. He was having a good bounce back season prior to the concussion that sidelined him. Ever since, his play has regressed to the point where you wonder if he shouldn’t be a healthy scratch when Girardi and Kevin Klein are finally healthy.
There was only one goal scored in the first. Shea Weber notched his 15th- fourth even strength. The other 11 have come on the power play. He didn’t overpower Lundqvist. But had some puck luck when his shot redirected off Clendening’s skate. It was headed way wide. Like I said, it was a rough one for Clendening.
After Lekkonen put the Habs up 2-0, Pavel Buchnevich created a ton of scoring chances. He was easily the Rangers’ best player. Dangerous throughout, his speed and play-making resulted in some near misses. Give Carey Price credit. He made some big saves and finished with 26 overall. Buchnevich thought pass too much on one chance where he would’ve been better off shooting. That can be a problem with the team in general. They’re sometimes too unselfish for their own well being. Shoot the puck!
I definitely think Buchnevich is here to stay. Even when Michael Grabner gets back and Jesper Fast returns, you have to think Brandon Pirri and Matt Puempel are the odd men out. But Alain Vigneault must find a way to keep Buchnevich with Mika Zibanejad and Rick Nash. Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller are missing Grabner. Jimmy Vesey hasn’t done enough and might wind up back on the fourth line when everyone is healthy.
This blog is about what Derek Stepan said following the loss. He was pointed in his remarks to John Giannone. Granted. He’s in a horrific scoring slump now 20 games without a goal. But Stepan is very honest when things go bad. He more so than Ryan McDonagh is the true leader of this team along with Lundqvist, who also didn’t mince words referencing “will.” Something Vigneault alluded to in a not so fun post game.
One thing about Stepan. He does compete hard and was in on the Blueshirts’ lone goal. Chris Kreider’s 24th early in the third that made it 3-1. He started the play with Mats Zuccarello making the pass in front for Kreider, who got the follow up to score for just the second time in his last 11. He has been banged up. Something Joe Micheletti referenced with Kreider missing some shifts last game. Kreider’s been playing through it. I do get on him at times. But even I can see that he hasn’t been himself.
Kreider was more visible this game. He nearly took advantage of a Price giveaway and made it 3-2 only to see the acrobatic Montreal goalie get across and close up the five-hole. Kreider could only smile in disbelief. If he scores there, who knows what happens. The Rangers had more jump than the first two periods combined. Price also made another big stop denying Oscar Lindberg, who shook his head.
The Rangers at least showed for the third. But you can’t allow the fourth goal which came off a clean face-off loss from Zibanejad to Alex Galchenyuk, resulting in a harmless Jordie Benn right point shot going through Staal and Lundqvist for an insurmountable 4-1 lead. The Rangers aren’t scoring lately. It was another game of two or less. Something that’s becoming a troublesome trend.
If not for a comeback at the Devils in which they prevailed 4-3, they’d be nine straight with two goals or fewer. That’s not good enough. You knew the offense would slow down at some point. The lack of a power play is really hurting now. Astonishingly, they didn’t get one power play even though Habs took down our players on multiple occasions. Typical Montreal. There was only one power play the entire game. And I didn’t stick around to see it. I heard Brendan Gallagher ran Lundqvist intentionally and Staal responded. Of course, he gets mocked for it by ignorant fans. At least he has a backbone.
What about our captain? Does he ever do anything when Lundqvist is run? Nope. McDonagh is a quality player. But he’s as much a captain as Brian Leetch was. Some players just aren’t cut out for it. Listen to what Stepan said here about the team’s recent inconsistency and struggles. It’s dead on: