By now, pretty much everyone knows that the Rangers lost the first game of the second round last night, defeated by Ottawa in a 2-1 thriller. The game had incredible moments of excitement, including Rangers breakaways and some head-scratching saves by Henrik Lundqvist that we will all remember for a long time. Plus, all importantly, the Rangers kept Derick Brassard and Bobby Ryan off the scoreboard–this was a requirement for the Blueshirts to have a chance to win.
So they did all this and still lost. But not by much and how the team lost was on a weird goal by Ottawa defenseman, Erik Karlsson. New York’s Head Coach Alain Vigneault said that he thought there should have been an icing called just before the goal, which may or may not have been true (looking at the video from the only angle I have). But he also said that the Rangers just did not play well enough to win. I disagree. The game winner scored by Karlsson was very controversial, and Lundqvist stopped 41 shots on goal. The team did enough to neutralize both Brassard and Ryan, scored on one of the four power plays, was 51% in the face off circle, and got off 35 shots, including breakaways that just did not go in. In addition, Chris Kreider had four shots on goal, and was much less invisible than he was in the first round.
What is wrong with how they played. If you want to get more offense out of the forwards, how about changing the forward lines. At this point, does Jimmy Vesey really belong in a top six role? My thinking is put Vesey on the “fourth line” with Lindberg and Fast, and move Michael Grabner up–up, as I suggested yesterday, to a reconstituted Grabner/Hayes/Miller line. You want to generate more offense, these guys have chemistry and the ability to make things happen out there. Try it again; given how Hayes and Miller have played and how Grabner is just missing, what is the holdup? The Miller/ Hayes/Zuccarello line is just not as good, and Zuc can definitely play a top six role; why not put him there?
And the defense blocked 11 shots last night, including five blocked by captain Ryan McDonagh alone. McDonagh played a little under 28 and a half minutes last night, followed by Dan Girardi at 20:31. Girardi did not have his best game on the blueline last night, but he still eats up minutes and is generally steadier than the black ace options, which now include five call-ups from Hartford (the Wolf Pack did not make the AHL playoffs this year). So, the D did not have their best game overall, but it was far from terrible.
All in all, not a bad game. If the Rangers keep doing what they did last night, the breaks will eventually fall their way, and games will be won. If the team can win tomorrow afternoon and return to the Garden even at 1-1, New York will be well on their way toward the third round. What it will also take is for AV to give in–and just change those forward lines again.