Assessing the New York Rangers performance last night against the Flyers
The Rangers were without three players last night, two of them key pieces of the lineup. Both their power play and penalty kill struggled last night. and these factors led to a 5-4 overtime loss to the Flyers. It certainly wasn’t for lack of effort though as the Rangers came back from being down 2-0 to tie it. They took the lead twice, but still allowed the Flyers to force overtime. Then their inability to finish in OT eventually led to the loss.
Rangers missing three regular players
Phil Di Giuseppe was the first to be placed on the NHL’s COVID list and was followed by Pavel Buchnevich and Adam Fox. Di Giuseppe has been in and out of the lineup a bit lately with David Quinn trying different line combinations. He started off the season strong, but has slowed down.
Buchnevich and Fox have easily been two of the Rangers’ best players this season. Buchnevich is tied with Artemi Panarin for the team lead in points with 22. It’s not just his point production, since Buchnevich is playing with more confidence overall. He is making smarter and stronger plays. While he seems to be more of a streaky scorer and sometimes has trouble finishing, he has been a huge contributor this season. His stepping up is even more valuable with Mika Zibanejad’s slump. However, Zibanejad does seem to be finding his game bit by bit now. The Rangers still put up four goals last night without Buchnevich, so it wasn’t necessarily the offense that struggled.
Adam Fox has been the Rangers’ best defenseman this season. His high hockey IQ is apparent through his play in the defensive and neutral zones. He leads the Rangers in blocks with 53 on the season. He also leads all Rangers skaters in ice time, averaging 24:32 per game. That alone is evidence of how much the team relies on him. The Rangers missed Fox on both the power play and the penalty kill last night. Fox is averaging 4:03 of ice time per game on the power play and 2:36 on the penalty kill. While the special team issues cannot be equated to the absence of one player, missing Fox certainly didn’t help.
From both a human standpoint and a hockey standpoint, hopefully none of these players will be out long term.
Power play struggles continue, penalty kill falters
The Rangers’ power play has not been a strong point this season, and they went 0 for 3 last night. On one of those power plays, they had trouble even gaining the zone. In general, they tend to pass too much. At the beginning of the season, they were fairly stationary during their power plays. Though they have started moving around more and creating opportunities, they can’t quite finish. They have 14 power play goals on 99 opportunities. Their 99 opportunities is above the league average of 86, but they have to start burying some more of these. They currently rank 27th in the league in power play percentage at 14.1%.
The Rangers’ penalty kill has been a successful piece of their game. However, last night against the Flyers it struggled. The Flyers had five power plays, and the Rangers allowed them to score on two of them. The Flyers rank 15th in the league in power play percentage at 20.6%. The Rangers rank fourth in penalty kill percentage at 85.6%. They needed to do a better job of killing penalties last night. On Claude Giroux’s PPG, the Rangers were certainly in position, but didn’t quite read the play correctly. Keith Kinkaid misread Jakob Voracek’s play across the crease. Jacob Trouba then appeared to not know exactly where the puck was which allowed Giroux to knock it in. The Rangers needed more awareness on this play.
Inability to finish cost the Rangers the game in OT
The Rangers maintained puck possession for most of the overtime. However, they only registered one shot on goal. They skated circles around the Flyers and tried several times to go to the net, but couldn’t get a good shot through. They needed to catch the Flyers tired, drive to the net, and bury one. Instead, they skated around too long playing keep away and passing too much. Eventually, this led to the Flyers clearing the puck. Kinkaid chose to play the puck, but didn’t do it well. It came out to Panarin who tried to chip it into open ice. That didn’t work and Voracek ended up scoring on a breakaway. This was a display of poor playmaking and, to a degree, lack of communication. The Rangers could have ended the game several times, but they just couldn’t finish and made some costly mistakes.
Note: All stats come from hockeyreference.com and nhl.com.