Quick Hits – Rangers vs Islanders 2/16/17
Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images
Here is my recap of the Rangers 4-2 loss to the Islanders
Jimmy Vesey – The Rangers rookie has picked up his game over the last 7-10 days, playing with speed and making a presence when he is on the ice. With the Blueshirts on the man advantage and trailing 3-1, Vesey put home a point shot from Brady Skjei to cut the deficit in half. It was the rookie’s 14th goal of the year, and his 22nd point. If his game can start to pick up again at this point in the season, he will become a factor more and more as we head down the homestretch.
Nick Holden – It was an up and down game for the Rangers defenseman. Holden got the Rangers on the board in the first, taking a Zuccarello feed and putting the puck into a half empty net. Then with the game tied at 1, Holden was on the ice when Marc Staal turns it over behind the net and Andrew Ladd is wide open in front. Yes, Holden is NOT to blame for the mistake by Staal, nor is he expecting it. But in trying to get back into position, he goes to the puck carrier and not to the front of the net, where he should have gone. There has to be a better job of communicating between both Staal and Holden in that situation, and that led to the goal.
Adam Clendening – It was not a good night for Adam Clendening. And before I get attacked for criticizing him let me say this: he plays DEFENSE! So when people argue that he helps on the power play, or that he can be the “offensive spark” at the blue line, it doesn’t mean anything to me if he can’t play defense. As a hockey coach myself, I can tell you that I’d rather my defensemen worry about how they play DEFENSE more than whether or not they rack up their shot totals. Yes, Clendening does have some offensive ability that perhaps the Rangers lack on their blue line; although frankly, I don’t see it. Clendening is already a healthy scratch most nights, but if he doesn’t play good defense when he DOES get into the lineup, he won’t see the ice much more.
Special Teams – The Rangers penalty kill got them going in the first period, killing off two penalties in the opening six minutes of the game. That was the positive; and now for the negative. While the Rangers power play did score a goal, they scored that goal with six seconds left on a four minute double-minor to Josh Bailey. The power play has really struggled as of late, not being able to generate zone time. Fans on social media have been calling for Grabner to be inserted into the power play. But to me, who Alain Vigneault puts out there doesn’t matter if you can’t get into the zone and get shots. The breakout style of dropping the puck back to the two trailing players does NOT work anymore. Every team does it and knows how to play against it. If the Blueshirts want to get back to putting the puck in the net with the man advantage, they need to start simplifying their play. Come up the ice with as much speed as possible and force the penalty killers to retreat, as opposed to slowing down and waiting for the trailing players.
Henrik Lundqvist – While the Islanders scored three goals with King Henrik in the net, you can make a very strong argument that none of the goals are “Henrik’s fault.” The first goal after a Rangers icing, and the Isles took advantage of a tired group that was caught running around their own zone. The second goal came off of a horrible turnover by Marc Staal, who admitted to it and took responsibility for it after the game. And the third goal came after a save by Lundqvist, and Rangers scrambling to find the puck; but what ended up happening was that all five players were caught puck watching, and nobody picked up Nikolay Kulemin in front. When Henrik had his defenders doing their jobs he was able to make the saves, including this one in the opening minute of the game, and this one with the Rangers trailing late in the third. Henrik has gotten back to his form that the organization and its’ fans have come to expect. But if the defense in front of him doesn’t start to pick up their game, the Rangers are not going to go very far in the playoffs.
Effort and Energy – Before the game, there was a lot of talk about the way the Rangers have started games. They have given up the first goal a lot this season, and it has become a point of emphasis with this team. But after playing a good first period, in which the Rangers exited with a 1-0 lead, they seemed to have had a little bit of a let down in the final 40. And when you have letdowns, even if it’s only for a few minutes, the opposition will make you pay. The Rangers goals against came during breakdowns in coverage and letdowns in energy, and that is something that the Rangers CANNOT afford to do as we get into crunch time.
“We’ve got five guys standing around, looking at two of their players making plays in front of our net.” – AV on Islanders third goal
NEXT GAME: The Rangers will look to bounce back on Sunday when they take on the Washington Capitals. Puck drops at 1230!
LETS GO RANGERS!!