Friday, March 22, 2013

Recap: Rangers Lose 3-1 To Panthers



















One step forward, two steps backwards. That's really the best way to describe the Rangers' season so far this year, and that trend continued on Thursday night when they inexcusably lost 3-1 to a Florida Panthers team that seemingly has half their team on IR. Despite outshooting the Panthers 45-24 in the game, the Rangers could muster only a single goal that came from Marian Gaborik late in the third period to cut the Panthers' lead to 2-1. Despite getting a power play in the final minute of the game, though, the Rangers quickly gave up an empty net goal with Henrik Lundqvist pulled for an extra skater, and that was all she wrote.

There's really not much else to say beyond the fact that the Rangers have underachieved to this point in the season. I must admit that even when the team won back to back games against the Hurricanes and Devils earlier this week I was still feeling uneasy about the way the team looked. In the Devils game they basically sat back to try and defend a 3-2 lead for the entire third period and half of the second, while the game against the Hurricanes was a lot like tonight in that the Rangers fired shots from anywhere and everywhere on goal and only one puck found the back of the net. The difference, of course, was the Rangers were able to steal two points in the game against Carolina, unlike tonight.

I'm not going to put the individual struggles of players like Marian Gaborik (who, even before his goal tonight, has been much better in the past few games and just hasn't had any good luck go his way) and Brad Richards on John Tortorella. Both men have been around long enough that they need to, and I believe ultimately will, figure things out on their own. They're just simply way too talented not to. I will say, however, that the Rangers' gameplans have been way too tentative lately, and that falls on the coaching staff. The Rangers seem to come out flat seemingly every game, and play the game almost as if they're afraid to take chances in the offensive zone. Maybe the players are afraid of taking chances because they think they'll get benched if they screw up or maybe the gameplan just simply is to wait out the other team until they make a mistake from the beginning. Either way, things are clearly not working and the coaching staff needs to do something to right the ship here. Coming up with a new gameplan for this team to follow is ultimately up to John Tortorella.

Some notes from tonight's game (I'll make this quick because I really don't feel like talking about how frustrating this game was anymore):

- I thought tonight was easily Rick Nash's worst game as a Ranger. He seemed very tentative with the puck like everyone else on the team and constantly looking to pass first before shooting. He also had a few awful turnovers and wasn't particularly strong on the puck at all. He only had two shots on goal and was a minus-1 tonight, although he did pick up an assist on Marian Gaborik's goal.

- Taylor Pyatt had a game-low 2:51 time on ice tonight, all coming on even strength. After recording three goals and two assists in his first eight games this year, Pyatt has just one goal and no assists in his last 22 games, including 12 straight games without a point.  Pyatt has been a non-factor for several few weeks now, and if the Rangers had any other better alternatives to insert into the lineup I have to believe he would've been a healthy scratch at some point by now.

- Marian Gaborik had a game-high eight shots on goal. As I said above, I really think Gaborik has been playing a lot better lately but he just hasn't gotten any results until his third period goal tonight. Unfortunately for the Rangers, it seems like neither Gaborik or Nash are particularly comfortable playing the left wing after playing right wing for relatively their entire careers, but one of them will have to learn to adjust to it for at least the remainder of this season.

- Making his return to the Rangers, Chris Kreider was held off the stat sheet in 12:03 TOI.

- Brian Boyle lost all 10 faceoffs he took in the game. Boyle sure as heck isn't in the lineup for his scoring, so that's just not going to cut it.

- The 45 shots on goal tonight marked a season-high for the Rangers.

- The Rangers went 0-for-3 on the power play tonight while only mustering four shots on goal.

- Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 of 23 shots he faced, and came up with a couple of huge stops in the second and third periods to keep the Rangers in the game. I thought the first goal was one he should've had, but the second one wasn't on him at all (scramble in front of the net and no Ranger could get to the puck or clear the front of the net). I originally thought if the Rangers got a win tonight that we might see Marty Biron in goal on Sunday, but I would now say the chances of that happening are slim to none. The Rangers may be forced to ride Lundqvist for just about every remaining game because of the hole they've dug themselves into.

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