Rangers Seek To Recover From Game 1

Yesterday, the Rangers were defeated in Game One of their qualifying series with Carolina. Although the 3-2 final score looks like it was a close game, the score itself did not reflect the dominance of the Hurricanes through most of the game. The Rangers did start to come on in the third period, but it just was not enough to defeat or even tie Carolina.

Much of the Rangers’ game story revolves around injuries. First, an injury to Igor Shesterkin, who was scheduled to start the game in net. Shesterkin who is day-to-day right now (and may not be available for Game 2 either), has been playing light’s out between the pipes since the 24-year old was recalled from Hartford on January 6th. He has been the most consistent goaltender the Rangers had this season, and the team was counting on having him start Game 1.

Instead, Henrik Lundqvist took the net. Although Lundqvist is a very experienced netminder, who played well in camp and the exhibition game against the Islanders, he has not shown the steadiness of Shesterkin this season. And only one minute into the game, he gave up a goal to Jacob Slavin, that might have been saved had Shesterkin been in net. Which brings us to the second injury, which set up the play that allowed Slavin’s shot to even get through to the net.

Jesper Fast was clocked by Brady Skjei on a clean hit not one minute into the game. It was Fast’s third shift, and Skjei’s hit was legal, but Fast was unable to get off the ice, nor was he able to function when the Canes brought the puck quickly into the Rangers’ zone. In normal circumstances, Fast would have been there to either block Slavin’s shot or otherwise make it harder to take, but Fast was dazed and just stood there.

What followed thereafter was a fight between Ryan Strome and Justin Williams (of all people) and then a parade of Rangers and Canes to the penalty box through the rest of the game. As Head Coach David Quinn said today, “[o]ne of the things I thought was a problem for us, is that I thought that we were overly physical and took ourselves out of the play way too often.” The flow was constantly interrupted and the Rangers never really got their five on five game together.

The Good. Kappo Kakko, who had no points and was not on the ice for either of the Rangers’ two goals, was very visible all afternoon. He was quickly moved up to play in the top six and looked completely at home there. In 15:22 minutes of play, Kakko was credited with five shots and was a threat every time he took the ice.

Brett Howden continues to show what a good face-off man he is. He once again was the only forward on the Rangers who had an over 50% face off win percentage (it was the same in the exhibition against the Isles).

Lundqvist, who gave up three goals on 37 shots, generally played well enough to win. It really was the team’s offense that let the Rangers down in this game, not Lundqvist. The Rangers’ two goals, including one shorthanded, is just not enough to win most hockey games in this league.

The Bad. Artemi Panarin was almost completely invisible in yesterday’s game, although he was on the ice for more than 20 minutes. The Hart and Ted Lindsay Trophy Finalist needs to spearhead the offense. As visible as Kakko was in his 15 plus minutes, Panarin was ineffective in his more than 20 (which included 7:40 of power play time).

Filip Chytil’s face off win percentage is the lowest on the team. Yesterday his win percentage was 27. That just is not good enough for a third line center. Chytil is now playing in every situation, often very well and getting better, but maybe the face off experiment is not working. There is a possibility that natural center Steven Fogarty will play tomorrow. Perhaps he becomes the fourth line center and Howden moves up? That would put Chytil on the wing on the third line, which may work out better.

What is next. The Rangers face the Canes again tomorrow at noon. Quinn told us today that Fast will not be playing and Shesterkin is day-to-day. Although Mika Zibanejad and Tony DeAngelo (who is banged up) did not practice today, they will be on the ice for the game tomorrow. The Rangers will have to be faster to win and they will have to defeat Carolina’s excellent forecheck. In fact, they will have to do everything better. This is a short series–if they do not win tomorrow, the odds of going on to the playoffs become extremely slim.

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