Henrik Lundqvist stops Jay Beagle in a 3-2 loss to the Canucks. AP Photo by Kathy Willens via Getty Images
I’ll be honest. I didn’t have a good feeling about Sunday’s odd 1 PM game against the Canucks. I figured they’d bounce back following being shutout by Mackenzie Blackwood and the Jack Hughes Devils. Still, it’s a bad sign when you can’t take advantage of a tired opponent.
Vancouver was on the back half of a back-to-back. Those are the games even the rebuilding Rangers MUST win. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. A lousy start doomed them in a 3-2 home loss on Kids Day at a less than capacity MSG. That’s what Dolan gets for charging the prices he does. The fan decrease started last year. It’ll continue despite fan excitement over Kaapo Kakko and Artemiy Panarin, who scored his fourth to make things interesting late.
It doesn’t matter if they played one good period. That’s not good enough. Not with a team in transition. Even with fancy new additions Panarin and Jacob Trouba, who’s fast becoming a NHL iron man due to the current state of the defense, this team isn’t good enough to half ass it. They cannot mail it in as they did for too long after being more rested than the Canucks, who are further ahead in their rebuild. Having Elias Petterson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and former buddy JT Miller will do that for Vancouver coach Travis Green, who praised his team’s effort. He called their first two periods the best he’s seen since he took over.
That in itself is an utter embarrassment for confused Rangers coach David Quinn, who didn’t look pleased throughout. Maybe he should start by looking in the mirror. The mixing of lines isn’t working. Sure. It’s only Game Six of an 82-game schedule. I don’t understand some of the combos. Maybe Quinn should have a sponsor for his lines. Combos, anyone? Pizza are my favorite.
Quinn stuck with Chris Kreider playing his off wing on the top line. Kreider did get some opportunities thanks to hard work by using his greatest attributes. His skating and speed. However, Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom wasn’t biting. I still am not sure this is best for Kreider moving forward. He’s a left wing playing the right side. He’s doing okay with Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, who continues to be far and away this team’s best player. He picked up an assist in the Rangers’ fourth consecutive defeat. He also hustled like hell to try to prevent veteran Jay Beagle’s back breaking shorthanded goal late in the dreadful first that made it 3-0 Canucks.
Let’s quickly get to the mixed bag of DQ lines sponsored by Combos:
Honestly, I have no clue what Quinn is trying to do. I get the need to look at different pairings due to the continued struggles from Brady Skjei. He had another poor showing. He was caught out of position on the Horvat power play goal and got benched in a dismal second where he gave up a rush that led to Henrik Lundqvist having to fend for himself. Even though he could’ve had the Boeser and Beagle goals (both high glove), he had to do way too much the first 40 minutes. Judging from rewatching, this could’ve been 6 or 7-1. Something Green alluded to afterwards. They had so many point blank chances, it makes you wonder if the guys in the Blueshirts were even there for the first half of the game.
At some point soon, Quinn has to give a struggling Kakko a look with Zibanejad and Panarin. It makes the most sense. Then you can put Kreider back in his ideal spot along with Buchnevich, who lost ice time due to the coach not liking his effort. At one point, he was down on the fourth line. I feel like Howden can’t be asked to be the second center. He isn’t ready yet. It’s doing a disservice to Kakko and Kreider. Filip Chytil had two more points (goal/assist) in Hartford’s win Saturday night. He’s got eight points so far. They still shouldn’t rush him until they feel he’s ready.
I want to talk about Lias Andersson. He isn’t being treated fairly by the coaching staff. While Howden gets all these minutes and hasn’t excelled, Andersson is buried on the fourth line with Smith and Haley (why). So much for training camp meaning anything. Andersson outplayed Howden and Greg McKegg was way better than Haley. Why did they even trade Vladislav Namestnikov if this is what they’re doing? I know it’s not permanent. But here is a harsh reality for Blueshirts fans:
That trend cannot continue. Ever since Kakko got his first NHL goal last weekend, the team hasn’t been the same. There’s no consistency. Obviously, the layoff didn’t help. You need to play games. Something Quinn referenced. Unfortunately, they haven’t gotten any traction. They went 0 for 3 at the Devils, Capitals and home for the Canucks, who gave them a great chance at a comeback due to getting tired. There are two reasons the Blueshirts didn’t complete the comeback:
1. Referees missed calls. You know I hate blaming the refs, but they were not good. The call on Skjei for interference was tacky in the first. Then, they missed an obvious trip with Buchnevich driving the net and under a minute left. Unbelievable. That should’ve been a six-on-four with Lundqvist on the bench. They missed one more too and didn’t put a second back on the clock at the end. Be consistent!
2. Markstrom was good. Of the 38 saves he made, 16 came in the third. He was under stress in similar fashion to his Swedish counterpart. The one goal he gave up was a good Panarin one-timer off a nice Fast pass. That was it. He stood on his head in crunch time by making several big stops with none bigger than the stone job on a stunned Ryan Strome with 40.1 seconds left. A perfect misdirection pass by improving rookie Adam Fox down low for a Strome redirect that Markstrom got. He also made a brilliant save on Tony DeAngelo and got the rebounds during a mad scramble.
Had they approached the first two like the third where they outshot Vancouver 17-6, the Rangers could’ve and should’ve won. When you come out flat and give up three goals on a ungodly 20 shots due to lazy play along with a bad minor penalty on rookie Libor Hajek (hooking), that gave the Canucks the momentum. Their new captain Horvat scored a power play goal on a good feed from Petterson with Miller screening in front. Quinn Hughes helped set it up for a secondary assist. There was enough time for Skjei to close out Horvat. He didn’t and I don’t know what Howden was doing. Trouba was occupied with Miller.
The second Canucks goal was as simple as two terrible defensive plays. First from Smith, who didn’t clear the puck. Instead, it deflected back to Marc Staal. Staal’s attempt was even worse. It went off a Canuck and right to Boeser in the slot. He skated in and released a good shot that Lundqvist got a piece of with his glove, but let in. He slammed his goal stick in reaction. Honestly, those are the saves he needs to make to help this team. It was a brutal miscue by Smith and Staal. But he was there and just didn’t get it. That’s how shaky the defense is.
The third one was a brutal turnover on the power play. The first unit failed miserably. Kreider mishandled a puck followed by Zibanejad making a mistake by getting caught. That resulted in Chris Tanev passing for Beagle, who led a two-on-one. A solid penalty killer who really got it done with the Caps, he skated up ice and somehow got into position as Zibanejad trailed him. With Lundqvist anticipating pass, Beagle surprised him by taking the shot that also went high, glove side for the 3-0 lead.
Vancouver had another 17 shots in a busy second. They totaled 37 thru 40 minutes. That’s inexcusable. So were the ridiculous scoring chances they allowed. Lundqvist had to make some great stops to keep it at three. The one sequence where Skjei got abused and then Lundqvist made a big save and Boeser somehow missed with a wide open net. That can’t happen. It’s why Skjei missed some shifts in the period. Quinn explained how they expect more from him. He is making too much money to be this inconsistent.
Give Quinn credit for realizing which players were going. He moved Fast up and gave Strome more shifts. It was the gritty Fast who was rewarded when a Trouba shot deflected off him for his second goal in two games. Strome did some good work in the corner to get the secondary assist. Very quietly, he’s got three assists in six games. He can use a goal for the consistent work ethic he brings. Maybe it’ll come this week. Arizona visits on Tuesday. They’re also in town to see the Islanders and Devils. Might we see Antti Raanta in net versus his former team? We’ll see. He’s the backup behind Darcy Kuemper.
Whatever was said between periods, it worked. The Rangers reacted differently to being yelled at. They dominated the third, outshooting the Canucks 17-6. They came at Vancouver hard and had the puck possession five-on-five the way we hope they’ll eventually over time. It was relentless pressure at even strength.
That’s where the period was played with the refs putting their whistles away. That includes Dan O’Halloran, who doesn’t have the best relationship with the Garden Faithful. Can I just ask how Staal got a reaction penalty after he was shoved from behind by Jake Virtanen face first into the boards during the second? Holy moly.
With Quinn shuffling the deck, Fast got a few shifts on the top line. It paid
dividends when off some grunt work along with Zibanejad, he was able to find an open Panarin for number four to pull within a goal with 14:29 left in regulation. A great all around play off hard work via the forecheck. Something we need to see more of moving forward.
They had one very long shift where it seemed like a power play in the Canucks zone. In particular, Fox was very good during the shift. He was good in the game, drawing a penalty and looking more confident with the puck. He is due for a goal. He’s getting chances. Maybe he breaks on through. Couldn’t help but get a Doors reference in. I share a birthday with the legendary Jim Morrison. 😀
Of the six D, half played well. They were Trouba, Fox and DeAngelo, who rebounded from a benching by receiving the second most ice time on the back end with 20:18 including 2:19 on the power play. He plays on the second unit, which started two power plays due to the first line being out before stoppages.
Even though they did everything possible to tie it, Markstrom wouldn’t allow it. There’s not much else to say. It was a missed opportunity. Lundqvist finished with 40 saves including 34 in the first two periods.
And finally, there was this funny moment from Jimmy Fallon. He made a deal with the Devil. Oops.
At least he’s a good sport. That’s what Jimmy gets for supporting the Rangers in the early stages of another rebuilding season. Hopefully, they improve so we don’t have a repeat of Fallon getting a pie to his face from NJDevil. Unlike the Giants and Yankees, it at least made me laugh.
Hudson 3 🌟:
3rd 🌟 Jesper Fast, Rangers (2nd of season, assist, +2 in 14:56)
2nd 🌟 Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (40 saves including 34/37 in 1st & 2nd)
1st 🌟 Jacob Markstrom, Canucks (38 saves including 16/17 in 3rd)