I don’t normally blame refs for losses. Anyone that knows me knows this. I will usually put the blame where it belongs. On the team. The Rangers were in a winning position up 3-2 on not one. Not two. But THREE POWER PLAY GOALS! Say that again. That’s a month’s worth. Who knows when they’ll score one on man-advantage again?
On PPG’s from Chris Kreider (team-tying 26th) and two from Mika Zibanejad (10, 11), the Rangers were ahead by one against the Hurricanes. They led in shots 29-12 with one period to go. But all hell broke loose literally in Raleigh when a botched video review cost them their timeout for the joke that is the coach’s challenge. Sure enough, the blind mice ruled that Sebastian Aho’s power play goal counted. Even with contact in front from Canes bust Elias Lindholm on Antti Raanta which was easy to see, Toronto didn’t overturn it. Or they wouldn’t.
Alain Vigneault lost his timeout. He was steamed. He told John Giannone he felt 100 percent right that it was the wrong call. They said it was a good goal despite Raanta’s feet being in the blue paint due to his mask being outside even though it was contacted. That’s gotta be one of the cheesiest, lamest explanations I’ve ever heard. It’s like the ridiculous Magic Bullet Theory which any brain surgeon knows is the biggest lie ever told by our government. But they say physics can prove it. Sure. The same way Raanta wasn’t impeded by that scrub Lindholm and couldn’t pick up Aho’s shot which tied the score.
Honestly, the NHL can go piss off. This whole coach’s challenge thing is a joke. It’s a circus that continues to confuse players, coaches and infuriate fans. Even if their play in the third didn’t merit a win because they stunk and fittingly lost the game in which they scored three power play goals, the Rangers got screwed. They got absolutely robbed, jobbed and any other adjective you can use that’s clean or vulgar.
It doesn’t fully explain the third period. It was the third game in four nights. So, they had to be tired. But they should’ve still won. Instead, for the 17th time when they out-shot the opposition, they lost. They’re now 15-17-2 when they have more shots than opponents. This one went in favor of them 43-30 and the attempts were 71-50. This is who they are. They do better when they’re out-shot. They’re 27-6-0 when opponents out-shoot them and 1-0-0 when shots are even.
You can’t take penalties when you’re up. The Rangers did and paid the price. Nick Holden first which led to Aho’s very controversial tying goal which is still mystifying. Our great captain Ryan McDonagh didn’t get an explanation. How is that possible? Blueseat Blogs’ Dave Shapiro had the best look at the goal that wasn’t:
There it is plain as day. Lindholm elbows Raanta at the edge of the crease as Aho’s shot goes past him. So, tell me how he had a chance to stop it. Unbelievable.
As for Aho’s second power play goal, that was predictable. Zibanejad took a bad penalty and the Canes were opportunistic and made the Rangers pay. Basically, a low scoring team flipped the script. This is what the Rangers do to opponents. But tonight, the fell victim to their own strategy. Rope a dope.
I am not going to bother getting into the rest of the game. For the most part, the Rangers were the better team except for a nightmarish sequence that emulated last year when they gave up two straight goals in a 39-second span. Ranger killer Jeff Skinner scored and Valentin Zykov scored what else but his first NHL goal as our D melted down. Both were the end result of sloppy turnovers from forwards and poor coverage in front.
The positive was that Derek Stepan had another good game assisting on two of the goals. That included a brilliant no look backhand feed from behind the net to Kreider for his power play tally that made it 1-0 on a five-on-three. They still took too long to shoot and score. But the power play goal gave them a huge confidence boost that continued during the game. Previously, they were 1 for their last 40.
Stepan finished with a game high 10 shots. He admitted that he’s been pressing prior to the game. I guess it’s hard not to think about his goal drought which is now up to 23. He’s never gone this long without a goal. His worst stretch was 18 during a very good rookie season. Stepan played well though with the two assists. Unfortunately, he has no puck luck with his shot ringing off the goalpost with a chance to tie it.
As long as he continues to stay aggressive and play better, it’s only a matter of time. He’s a smart enough player who understands the game. And he’s gotten much better in the last three.
The final point is on Vigneault. He loves Tanner Glass. As fans, we all do. We respect what he brings. He hasn’t been a liability so far since his recall, outplaying the hideous Brandon Pirri and Matt Puempel, whose turnover led to the Canes’ second goal. Having Glass out in the final minute on the Zibanejad line replacing Pavel Buchnevich is inexplicable. Even if Glass forced Cam Ward to make a couple of stops, it’s the wrong decision.
No disrespect to Glass, who always hustles and plays hard. If only every Blueshirt played as hard as him consistently. But you cannot have him out down a goal. Buchnevich is much more dangerous and talented. It is ridiculous that he didn’t take that shift yet the same coach had Buchnevich out for an empty net goal protecting a lead the other night.
I don’t get it. No one does. As for the injuries, everyone has them this time of year. Rick Nash was out and so was Henrik Lundqvist. They still should’ve won. Instead, they lost a winnable road game dropping their away record to 24-9-0. Now, they get a couple of days off before visiting Detroit in Brendan Smith’s homecoming.
I’m still flabbergasted at the refs for tonight. But as Vigneault said, their game wasn’t good enough in the third. That’s why they lost. Does it really matter? Whoever they draw in the first round won’t be any picnic. Maybe the plan is to get the first wildcard. The Islanders played for it last year and beat Florida. We’ll see.