Sometimes you deserve to win and sometimes you deserve to lose. “We got what we deserved,” Rangers’ Coach Alain Vigneault said after the game.
What they deserved was a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at the Garden last night as the Rangers failed to break through against 32-year old rookie goaltender Jeff Glass who was making his third NHL start. The fact that the game was tied 2-2 in the third period was a credit, once again, to Henrik Lundqvist who had to be spectacular because the Black Hawks kept the play in the Rangers’ zone for most of the game.
What’s concerning is not losing out on two big points, it’s that the Rangers have played this type of game before. “It’s one team playing hockey and the other chasing the whole night,” Ryan McDonagh said. The Rangers never had a lead as they overcame a one goal deficit twice but Chicago’s Patrick Sharp beat Lundqvist, top shelf, at 2:24 of the third period to snap the tie and the chase continued but to no avail as the Black Hawks added two empty netters
If the Rangers continue to play like this, especially at home, they won’t be in the playoffs. “We’re almost the halfway point of the season where we need to start playing with some consistency, we didn’t give ourselves a chance there,” McDonagh said afterwards in a downtrodden locker room. “They were able to do whatever they wanted, we didn’t finish checks, slow them down, their speed, they had time and space and we left our goalie out to dry.”
The Rangers never made it difficult on Glass who made 23 saves and didn’t have to work hard or make any spectacular stops. It’s the same ol’ story for this Ranger team that continues to try and finesse their way to scoring goals instead of putting the puck on net to create flurries in front and get the “garbage goals” that usually end up deciding games. Brady Skjei admitted that they could’ve made the Black Hawks’ goaltender work a little harder. “I think we could’ve, yeah, threw more pucks to the net for sure, looking back on it now,” Skjei said, “we need to create more through the neutral zone, get some speed going, but yeah, I think we definitely couldn’t thrown a few more shots at net.”
Be it the extra pass or holding on to the puck too long, the Rangers’ make mistakes that are easily preventable, yet continue to surface too many times. “We gave them a short rink to play on,” said Mika Zibanejad, who scored a 5 on 3 power play goal and one of the few Rangers who played a solid game.
The Rangers looked sluggish from the start as Chicago had a 14-6 shot advantage in the first period. The number was misleading because the Black Hawks dominated play as the Rangers had 13 blocked shots in the first period. “A lot of their chances came from our mistakes and that’s something we’ve been talking about not to do,” Zibanejad said.
Mats Zuccarello and Brendan Smith were particularly brutal in this one. “Zucc” was a -2 and gave the puck away four times in 19:48 of ice time, tops among the forwards. Smith was -3 and also coughed up the puck four times.
The Rangers had chances as the Black Hawks took a number of penalties but they could only cash in on 1 of 6 power play opportunities and that was on a 5 on 3. A telling stat on the power play was the Rangers won only 4 of 12 face offs with the man advantage.
So what went wrong in this one? The Rangers were coming off an emotional win in the Winter Classic just two days prior, yet they went out and “laid an egg” in an important home game. “Play simple and we didn’t do that tonight,” Zibanejad said.
McDonagh didn’t and wouldn’t point fingers but he is the team captain and he didn’t hold back in assessing what was a disappointing evening for the Rangers. “You come in here, you try and say some things and get it turned around but it can’t be one or two guys trying to make a difference,” McDonagh said. “You need everybody on the same page out there playing at the same level of intensity.”
Zibanejad was more to the point. “Plain and simple, not good enough, he said”