The rematch between Boston and New York two days later went to the bad guys up in Massachusetts. After getting outscored 13-4 in their last two losses including a 6-2 trouncing on Friday night, the Bruins responded resoundingly with a convincing 4-1 win at The Garden.
Unfortunately, it was expected. There was no way the Bruins were going to be as miserable. They’re too good a hockey team. Skating again without Artemi Panarin, Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil, the Rangers were outclassed by a more focused opponent that were harder defensively and better at even strength. The end result was as predictable as a Mika Zibanejad shot hitting the back of the net. It was another mysterious disappearance from the imposter wearing number 93.
Instead of going back to Igor Shestyorkin, coach David Quinn stuck with Alex Georgiev for a second consecutive game. Unfortunately, an accident that saw Nick Ritchie fall down and cut him would eventually lead to Georgiev exiting for concussion protocol. Initially, he did stay in and allowed the game’s first goal to Charlie Coyle at 6:41.
Shestyorkin would enter the contest as his teammate was checked out. He only faced two shots, but one went in. Trent Frederic was able to deflect in a Connor Clifton shot at 18:14 for a back breaking goal that put the Boston guests up a pair after a period.
Following a first period that saw Ryan Lindgren respond by earning an extra two minutes for roughing with Ritchie after the incident, Georgiev returned to the net for the second. Afterwards, he told reporters he felt alright. He certainly played okay although he wasn’t happy about letting in the Coyle shot on the first goal. For the game, he made 31 saves including stopping 16 Bruins shots in a busy third that saw Boston outshoot New York 17-6. Coyle added a shorthanded empty netter with 1:55 remaining.
The issue for the Blueshirts was they couldn’t match the Bruins’ intensity. To hear Brendan Smith put it during the Zoom Conference, they didn’t get inside enough on a stingier Boston defense that checked harder. He also indicated that they knew the Bruins would come more prepared off the previous two losses. He felt they needed to be grittier. Something that remains an issue for this team. It helps explain why they can’t put together a consistent stretch of good hockey. It’s a lesson to be learned.
The entire second period was played at five-on-five. It was Boston that held the edge in shots, 12-6. There was a lot of physical play. The Bruins like to take the body. On Friday, it was the Rangers that out-hit them. In this one, the Bruins had 43 hits to the Rangers’ 37. They were led by both Brad Marchand and Sean Kuraly, who each had five hits. It was Lindgren and Brett Howden that paced the Rangers with five apiece.
When there needed to be a well executed scoring play, it was Bruins ace center Patrice Bergeron winning an offensive draw back to Marchand. He got the puck to David Pastrnak, who found defenseman Charlie McAvoy open for a one-timer that beat Georgiev at 10:20 for a 3-0 lead.
It was that kind of game. Rather than go to Rangers killer Jaro Halak, Boston coach Bruce Cassidy stuck with starter Tuukka Rask. It wasn’t his fault on Friday. The team stunk. So, Rask got a second consecutive start. He was hardly tested. Through two periods, he stopped all 15 shots. Rask only faced 21 total with just the gritty Colin Blackwell beating him halfway through the final period off a great back pass from improving rookie Alexis Lafreniere. That was it.
There wasn’t much special teams. For once, every Ranger played over 11 minutes. Quinn rolled all four lines and played the three defensive pairs. He still didn’t get much from Zibanejad, who at this critical point looks lost. He wound up registering three shots on goal. But there are too many shifts where you hardly notice him. Even reuniting Zibanejad with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich didn’t produce much.
With not much happening, K’Andre Miller made an outlet for Lafreniere. The top pick skated into open ice to gain the Boston zone. He then backed up defenseman Brandon Carlo and dropped the puck for Blackwell, who moved in and fired a pea past Rask to the blocker side for his fifth with 9:13 left in regulation. It was a nice play by Lafreniere, who picked up an assist for the second straight game. The first time in his NHL career he’s posted points in consecutive games. He played well and was noticeable on the forecheck, nearly setting up Ryan Strome for a chance.
As for Blackwell, he continues to be a revelation for a team that can use more players with his hustle. Not the biggest guy who perhaps is 5-9, he brings it every shift by skating hard and winning puck battles. He’s also producing. The fact he has five goals while Zibanejad has two with none at even strength tells you everything. Blackwell is making a case to stay. Will the Rangers protect him? It’ll be an interesting decision.
Following the goal, his momentum carried him into former Ranger Greg McKegg to knock him down. He didn’t take kindly giving Blackwell a chop. Somehow, the refs also penalized Blackwell for roughing when he really did nothing. Both went off for matching minors to make it four-on-four over the next two minutes.
Somewhat disappointingly, Quinn didn’t use Lafreniere or Blackwell until the four-on-four was expiring. Instead, he predictably went with his top four forwards including Zibanejad. Of course, nothing happened. Why would it? There’s something wrong with him.
When Craig Smith got an unsportsmanlike conduct for going after Kevin Rooney, it handed the Rangers a power play with less than four minutes left. We knew at some point Quinn would lift Georgiev for a six-on-four advantage. But he again sent Zibanejad out with the top unit. He was so inept that he misfired wide on a perfect set up. It’s increasingly frustrating to watch him struggle. He didn’t play as much receiving 17:29 (2:59 on PP).
With Georgiev on the bench for the second half of the power play, the Bruins predictably scored a shorthanded empty net goal to seal the victory. Kuraly got the puck over to Coyle, who fired it from the center of his own blue line straight into the net for his second of the game at 18:05. That concluded the scoring.
There isn’t anything to add. I didn’t see the first two periods, but the highlights were easy to catch. At least Georgiev played well. He made some good saves in the third to give his team a chance. Plus Lafreniere had another good day. He got over 16 minutes. Close to two more than his average. And set up the only goal.
Before it ended, Lemieux was sent out to avenge Georgiev. With a second left, everyone knew what was coming. He asked and the much bigger Ritchie obliged. The game ended with Lemieux taking his lumps against Ritchie. It had to happen considering what Ritchie did to Shestyorkin two games ago. That’s making him accountable. Give Lemieux credit for hanging in there.
Once it ended, the teams separated and left the ice. That’s the way it should be. It doesn’t make the defeat any better. It proves how far the Rangers need to go. They played well winning three of four entering play. But exited losers in two of the last three.
The question for the coaching staff is if Chytil is ready for Tuesday against the Sabres, would they consider giving Zibanejad a night off? I don’t think they have the guts. A game off might give him a mental break. He’s been brutal. There’s no other way to slice it.
If Chytil returns and Kakko is cleared, that opens up two spots in the lineup. Jonny Brodzinski would come out. Who’s the other candidate? Is it Howden, who Quinn likes? Or perhaps Phil Di Giuseppe. Another hardworking player who fits the bottom line well.
I am in favor of scratching Zibanejad. They can’t keep giving him all these minutes if he can’t produce. Maybe a game off would be for the best. The Rangers got the Devils this Thursday. They haven’t beaten them yet. Mackenzie Blackwood has outplayed our goalies.
You can’t say the next two games aren’t winnable. The Sabres are down starting goalie Linus Ullmark, a few defensemen and captain Jack Eichel returned from whatever injury he had today. They’re currently trailing 3-0 to the Flyers. Buffalo is one of the worst teams in the NHL.
It goes without saying that the Rangers must win on Tuesday. No excuses. As for the Devils, they play teams tough. Especially our team. Lindy Ruff has done a good job. Pavel Zacha has a 10-game point streak including an assist today. However, they are beatable.
If there’s to be any chance of a season, the Blueshirts need both games. We’ll see what happens.
THREE STARS OF GAME
3rd Star David Pastrnak, Bruins (2 🍎, 4 SOG, +2 in 15:12)
2nd Star Charlie McAvoy, Bruins (goal and 🍎, +1 in 22:21)
1st Star Charlie Coyle, Bruins (2 goals on 5 SOG, 6-for-9 on draws, +2 in 15:52)