The playoffs were always a long shot. The Rangers organization knew it and so did the players. So when the Islanders defeated them 6-1 on a night where both the Penguins and Bruins won, they knew it was over. Still, they came into last night’s contest ready to go. An early goal from Brendan Smith gave hope for another offensive explosion against the Flyers, but Brian Elliott made big save after big save to set up the eventual fall.
Rangers latest lost has playoffs on life support
It wasn’t going to take much for the Rangers to start to breakdown. Playing without Jacob Trouba and trying to shelter young Zac Jones led to d-zone breakdowns. The Blueshirts took too many penalties and even though Igor Shesterkin was making key saves, they were playing with fire.
Philadelphia got their first goal on the power play on a broken play that almost broke James van Riemsdyk’s face. The puck caromed off his jaw and in to the net to tie it. He eventually made his way back with a full face shield to get the go ahead goal in the third, once again on the power play.
Although the final was 3-2, the game was won on special teams thanks to the Rangers taking six penalties, four of them in second period that did them in. They will now try and regroup themselves for the second game of the set versus Philly tonight.
“There’s been a lot of stuff around this team and there’s been a lot of chances for our group to quit, and we haven’t,” Ryan Strome said after the game. “There’s nine games left, and that’s going to be the message going forward. I think we have to finish strong here and see what happens. Our team has the ability to win games and go on a run like we’ve seen. Unfortunately, tonight wasn’t our best. At this point in the season these games are huge, and obviously with the scoreboard watching, that hurts a little bit more too.”
Time to dedicate the rest of the season to the kids
Alexis Lafrenière played a spirited game and was extremely visible on the first line with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. It’s now time for David Quinn to recognize the situation and give his younger players more opportunity with nine games left.
First off, it’s time to promote Kaapo Kakko back on to the second line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. Then Vitali Kravtsov needs to be placed on the third line with Filip Chytil and Chris Kreider. Finally, it’s time for the Rangers to use their call ups to get Morgan Barron a look on the fourth line and scratching Brett Howden.
On defense, Tarmo Reunanen should be back up with the big club as well. As much as I believe Brendan Smith has done an admirable job, there’s no reason not to give Reunanen, Jones and Libor Hajek an extended look.
Tonight may be too soon for any call ups, but on Sunday against the Sabres it’s time to dedicate the rest of the season to the kids.
Rangers post game notes
- Mika Zibanejad tallied his 40th point of the season in tonight’s game. The Rangers have five players who have registered 40 or more points this season (Artemi Panarin, Ryan Strome, Adam Fox, Pavel Buchnevich, and Mika Zibanejad), and as of the conclusion of tonight’s game, the Blueshirts are the only NHL team that has five players who have recorded at least 40 points in 2020-21. Prior to this season, the last time the Rangers had five or more players tally 40 or more points in the team’s first 47 games of a season was 1995-96 (Mark Messier, Pat Verbeek, Brian Leetch, Ray Ferraro, Luc Robitaille, and Adam Graves).
- Zac Jones made his NHL debut in tonight’s game. Jones was the fifth player (and third defenseman) who made his NHL debut with the Rangers this season (along with Alexis Lafrenière, K’Andre Miller, Tarmo Reunanen, and Vitali Kravtsov).
- According to NHL Stats and Information, the Rangers had five defensemen 23 years old or younger play in the same game for the first time since Nov. 2, 1980 (Barry Beck, Andre Dore, Ed Hospodar, Chris Kotsopoulos, and Tom Laidlaw).
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