Quick Hits – Rangers vs Penguins 10/17/17

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Here is the FullTilt Quick Hits recap of the Rangers’ heartbreaking and demoralizing 5-4 OT loss to the Penguins.

David Desharnais – After head coach Alain Vigneault drastically shuffled his lines in hopes of sparking his team, he was rewarded by the play of David Desharnais. The midsummer acquisition got the Rangers on the board in the second period, after some quick passing. Desharnais took the pass from JT Miller and surprised Murray with a quick shot to the far side and in. If he can get going and have a productive offensive season, it would certainly be a welcome sight for the Rangers.

Michael Grabner – After putting up one of the best seasons of his career, there were some elevated expectations for the Austrian winger. But some missed chances early on made it seem like he had reverted back to the pre-Rangers Grabner. Fortunately for the Rangers and Grabner, though, he found the scoring touch in this one. After the Rangers had tied the game at three, JT Miller passed the puck up to Grabner. Grabner came in 2v2 with Desharnais, and the two worked a beautiful give-and-go to give the Blueshirts the lead. Grabner being able to score goals will be a part of where the Rangers end up this season, and hopefully scoring in this one gets him going.

Power Play – After starting the season 4/9 on the man-advantage, the Blueshirts had converted just one of their next fourteen chances heading into this one. But the remade PP units clicked and the Rangers converted not once, but twice with the extra man. The first goal came from Pavel Buchnevich for his first of the season. Mats Zuccarello won the board battle to keep the puck in the zone, tapped it over to Mika Zibanejad who set-up Buchnevich for the one-timer.

The Rangers second PP goal came from JT Miller. Captain Ryan McDonagh passed the puck to Miller who wound up and fired one past Matt Murray. As Joe Michelleti pointed out on the broadcast, the goal wouldn’t have been scored had Chris Kreider not been setting the screen on the Penguins goaltender.

Ryan McDonagh – As mentioned before, the Rangers captain had an assist on the Rangers third goal, but his night wasn’t all good, to say the least. The Rangers captain has had a rough start to the season so far, and his play in this one is a prime example. McDonagh had six giveaways, including the brutal one that led directly to the game-winner by Evgeni Malkin. But even before that gaffe, McDonagh turned one over to Sidney Crosby and got bailed out by his goaltender.

“I should be able to make a read there and keep it on the boards instead of trying to go through them. Really, really bad hockey play by me.” – Ryan McDonagh

McDonagh seems like he is a bit lost without his longtime running-mate Dan Girardi. This isn’t to say that Jeff Gorton should call Steve Yzerman to work out a trade, but McDonagh needing time to adjust shouldn’t be so shocking. I think what has everyone worried is that the Captain has not performed at this level in a long, long time. He probably hasn’t made plays like the one he made here since he was in mites. The captain knows he has to play better and he’ll have to find a way to do that as soon as possible.

Kevin Shattenkirk – Speaking of Rangers defensemen, let’s talk about Kevin Shattenkirk. The New Rochelle native got on the scoresheet with the secondary assist on David Desharnais’ goal, but that’s not why he’s getting mentioned here. Shattenkirk showed off some of that attitude New Yorkers’ are known for, dropping the gloves with Malkin and standing up for Henrik Lundqvist after he was run into by Brian Rust.

That was the good; now here comes the bad. Shattenkirk had a real mental gaffe that ultimately sent this game into overtime. With the Pens pressing for the tying goal, the puck was sent forward by the glove of Patric Hornqvist. This would’ve resulted in a hand-pass had Shattenkirk not touched the puck. But he did, and Crosby alertly banked the puck off of an unsuspecting Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game. Shattenkirk is not known for his defensive zone play, but mental mistakes like this are inexcusable.

Henrik Lundqvist – Had it not been for King Henrik’s play in the first period, the Rangers comeback wouldn’t have been possible. This save after McDonagh’s turnover on Sidney Crosby kept this game at 1-0 and kept the Blueshirts in the game. Henrik gave his team the chance to eventually earn their first point since playing the Canadiens ten days ago. Henrik hasn’t had a ton of help from the guys in front of him, but he’s done everything in his power to keep this team afloat.

Mistakes and Turnovers – The biggest problem for the Rangers this season has been their puck management and turnovers. The Rangers lead the NHL with 105 turnovers, which should come as no surprise when the team is 1-5-1. It was an errant McDonagh pass that led to the opening goal by Kessel in transition, and Brady Skjei’s turnover behind the net with the Penguins on the PP led to Hornqvist’s goal. Any chance the Rangers have of turning this season around has to start with the Rangers taking better care of the puck, it’s really that simple.

“I like the way we played in our 2nd and 3rd period. We responded down by two against a team that’s not easy to come back on.” – Marc Staal

Slow Starts – Another reason the Rangers have gotten off to such a poor start to their season has been their first-period play. The Blueshirts have only scored seven goals in the opening frame while allowing eleven against. And these goals haven’t been coming in the later stages of the period, but it has been the first or second shot of the game that has been beating the Rangers netminders. This time it was Kessel just 43 seconds into the game. It’s almost as if the Rangers “need” to be trailing in order to get themselves into the flow of the game. And that is something that is not just on the players, but on the coaching staff as well.

“It’s a little challenging as far as putting the whole game together for us but this group is very accountable & working extremely hard. I am very confident that if we keep doing a lot of the things we’re doing now, we’re going to be on the right track.” – AV

Alain Vigneault – After much intrigue, discussion and outrage on Rangers Twitter, Alain Vigneault stuck to his guns in using the same lines from practice the other day for the game. And I have to give credit where it’s due; when the Rangers were trailing heading into the second, his team came out of the locker room and got back into it.

But when you see the ice time breakdown at even strength and see that Pavel Buchnevich played less than six minutes and that Rick Nash played less than ten minutes, there is something wrong. I understand Vigneault is still trying to find his line combinations, but you’ve got to find a way to get your more skilled players on the ice. This is nothing against Jesper Fast or even Jimmy Vesey, but they have not shown enough from the point production standpoint to warrant more minutes. Nash hasn’t gotten the results yet either, but he is creating a lot of chances and the breaks will start going his way soon.

NEXT GAME: The Rangers will look to build on the positives from this one when they face the Islanders on Thursday night. Puck drops at 7!

LETS GO RANGERS!!

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