Quick Hits – Rangers vs Blues 10/10/17

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Here is the Quick Hits recap of the Rangers 3-1 loss to the Blues.

Mika Zibanejad – The lone offensive bright spot for the Rangers in this one was the power play goal from Mika Zibanejad. After the Rangers fell behind just 15 seconds into the game, they were able to capitalize on their first man advantage on the night. Kevin Shattenkirk’s shot from the point was knocked down in front. Pavel Buchnevich, who had numerous chances in the third period, found the puck and slid over to Zibanejad who deposited the puck into the open net. Zibanejad has been a spark plug for the Blueshirts so far, and his play stands out above the rest of his teammates, and he is definitely earning his new contract.

Henrik Lundqvist – Had it not been for the Rangers goaltender, this game could have gotten away early. Lundqvist made a few key saves in the first and early in the second periods to keep the Rangers deficit at 2-1. King Henrik will inevitably get some criticism from Rangers fans because the team has lost three of their first four games. But when you look at the way the team has played in front of him, you see that his teammates are not putting Henrik in the best position to succeed.

Special Teams – The Rangers PP struck once again; but with three chances to tie the game up at 2, the Blueshirts were unable to solve Carter Hutton. The goal in the first period is nice, but when you have chances late in the game, you need to capitalize on them. This isn’t to say that you can’t take any positives from the Zibanejad goal, but as the season goes on and points become more and more important, being able to score when you need a goal is critical to any hopes of playing deep into the spring.

As for the PK, they came up huge in the third period in killing off a 5v3 chance for the Blues. But it was the PK that gave the Blues their second, and ultimately game-winning, goal in this one. Steven Kampfer’s turnover inside the blue line caused his teammates to have to scramble back into position, and Brayden Schenn banked home a rebound off of Lundqvist. Trying to make the fancy play when you are a man down is not smart, and the Rangers got burned by it.

“You look at the plays we try to make early on, they are kind of complicated plays and we end up turning over the puck. If we can get on the same page, play north-south early on, chip it in, get forecheck going we wont have so many TOs at our blueline.” – Rick Nash

Faceoffs – If you look at the box score, you would see that the Rangers won 55% of faceoffs on the night. But take a closer look, and you’d see that the Blues won four of seven faceoffs in the final 3:20 seconds, including all four before the empty net goal that sealed this one. Like with capitalizing on late PP chances, being able to win a faceoff late in the game gives your team control of the puck and the ability to either kill time if you have the lead or go on the attack if you need that tying goal. The Rangers sit eighth in the NHL in faceoffs, but if they don’t win faceoffs when they need them, their rank becomes meaningless.

Broadway Blues – Since the start of the 2014 season, the Rangers have a points percentage (percentage of points earned vs. possible points) of .587%. While that may seem good, I got news for you; it isn’t. The Rangers need to find a way to make Madison Square Garden into the hallowed arena the fans and players around the league know it is. The Garden is a place where visitors come in and put their best foot forward, and the Rangers need to start doing that as well.

Slow Starts – The term slow start has a couple of meanings here. First is the slow start the Rangers have had in every game this season. The Rangers were down 2-0 against Colorado, 5-1 against Toronto and 1-0 against the Blues in this one. Even the game against Montreal, which the Blueshirts came out on top, they got the benefit of two disallowed goals that kept them in the game. Coming out of the locker room flat night after night indicates that the players aren’t ready to start playing. I don’t know if it’s because AV doesn’t have the room, or if the guys simply aren’t getting themselves prepared, but something has got to change. You can’t be successful in the NHL, or in any sport for that matter if you are always trailing early on in games.

It could also mean the team’s slow start to the season. The Rangers are now 1-3, and while it is way too early to freak out, there is still reason for concern. The Rangers have started slowly a few times in recent years, and have been able to overcome that with multigame winning streaks. But just because they’ve done it before, doesn’t mean they’ll do it again. Like I said, it’s still too early to start hyperventilating and freaking out, but the Blueshirts need to figure this out sooner rather than later.

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Alain Vigneault – The Rangers head coach has come under a lot of criticism lately; and while I personally wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, he can’t avoid it any longer. The way he has deployed his troops has been questionable, to say the least. And while playing Kampfer and Holden worked against the Canadiens, the two aren’t going to be regulars as the season progresses. You may say that the Rangers are trying to showcase Kampfer and/or Holden for a possible trade, but showcasing the goods is not more important than winning games and getting into the playoffs. One would think that the decision here is between Holden and DeAngelo, and if that’s the case, then wouldn’t it make sense to send Kampfer down to Hartford where he’s going to play, à la Filip Chytil?

“There’s definitely a lot of room for improvement. Every one of our players and every coach in our staff would tell you the same thing. This game is always based on performance & who’s playing well. We’re trying to get our whole team & whole crew to elevate their game.” – Alain Vigneault

In addition to choosing his lineup, the way he’s used his lineup, particularly against St. Louis in this one, is troubling. Brady Skjei got less ice time than Steven Kampfer, albeit by just a second, and Kampfer and Holden played the majority of the even-strength shifts against Blues’ star Vladimir Tarasenko. Now part of the latter is Mike Yeo recognizing the matchups, but why can’t AV do the same thing and change his defense?

Alain Vigneault has a bit of rope with the Rangers, especially when you consider his overall successes with the team. But at some point, he will need to realize that eventually, his dubious decision-making can cost him his job. The sooner he realizes this, the better-off the Rangers will be.

NEXT GAME: The Rangers will look to bounce back on Friday night in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. Puck drops at 7!

LETS GO RANGERS!!