Make it seven straight home games in which the New York Rangers have not won at Madison Square Garden. A place considered the mecca of the sports world and yet it no longer a fearful place for opponents that come in to play the Blueshirts. The latest loss to the rival New York Islanders 3-2 a game in which the Islanders needed to win. They were desperate team and got the job done.
We won’t discredit the Rangers altogether as they played very well for the first time in a long time at MSG. They had one of their best second periods in a long time and dominated most of the play. Pretty similar from the night before when playing the New Jersey Devils. There is a tremendous weight on the Rangers, who, need to fix this problem before the playoffs begin. If there is a small bright side it would be the fact the Rangers would open up on the road if they hold their wild card spot. A road warrior team who has an NHL-best 26 road wins.
Bad bounces and a dirty goal off two skates is what did the Rangers in and failure to kill off a penalty. As the third period went on it was only a matter of time a bad penalty to take would come and bite the Rangers and it sure did. Michael Grabner, the leading goal scorer threw the puck in the crowd for a delay of game penalty. Sure enough, it did the Rangers and Antti Raanta in. Raanta had yet another strong performance but didn’t get the help in front of him.
One player noticeably frustrated when the question was asked about not winning at home was Derek Stepan. Stepan has been snake-biten this season as he just 1 goal in his last 29 games. He went on to say, “What we have to do is try to solve the riddle. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t understand why we can’t seem to get it done on home ice. It is certainly something that we need to fix but at this point there’s nothing we can do about the past seven games. We have to find the answer and get it done before the playoffs come around.”
It certainly is a riddle and partly in due to the fact MSG has no longer become a tough place to play for other hockey teams. This isn’t a call out of the fans but simply a message to take back MSG and make it a tougher place to play again. You go back a few years ago when the Washington Capitals and then head coach Bruce Boudreau basically said he couldn’t hear the garden faithful when they played there. Sure enough, the garden crowd made themselves known.
Lately it seems a bit quiet at the Garden among the Rangers struggle. Could it also be just in the minds of the Rangers who are simply overthinking? It could very well be that. No matter how many times you ask the question of why can’t it be done on home ice, you will get the same answer of “I don’t know”.
Alain Vigneault after the game simply blamed some unfortunate luck, “The way we came out tonight, we played a strong game. We had some real good looks. Defensively we didn’t give up much. We got a little unlucky I thought in the third period there as far as bounces on our PK. The only way to get the right bounce is by continuing to work smart and hard and that’s what this group is going to do, but we came out and we played a good game. It was a hard fought battle, we just got on the wrong side of a couple bounces in the third.”
There are now eight games remaining in the season for the Rangers, three of which are at home for the Rangers to fix the problem on home ice. The Rangers will now head out west for a trip that will see Henrik Lundqvist back in the net to get his reps in before the grind of the NHL playoffs. As usual, it looks like it will be Lundqvist to come and be the savior to end the woes at Madison Square Garden.