Rangers playoff hopes over after “disappointing” loss to the Islanders; big changes coming this summer
David Quinn looked completely dejected talking with the media after the 4-0 loss to the Islanders. He also used the word “disappointing” several times to describe not just the game but the team’s play. At times, the head coach almost sounded as envious of the Isles as he was frustrated with his own team.
The head coach knows that his team is not built like the Isles, they have a lot more going for them offensively. At the same time, the Islanders couldn’t care less about that as they smash every player in front of them and score just enough to win. Jeff Gorton has a young and talented team, he now needs to fix the holes in the lineup to get Quinn what he seems envious about.
Islanders end Rangers playoff hopes despite math
“It’s just disappointing overall,” Quinn began his press conference. “They get the first goal – and that team gets a lead and they do a really good job. I know it’s only 1-0 but I didn’t like the feel…they were the better team clearly.” He couldn’t be more right because after that goal the Rangers seemed to wilt instead of dig in their heels and try to push forward. Quinn called it a “mentality” and understanding “situational hockey.”
Shift after shift the Rangers played “hope hockey” as the coach once described their play this season. The Rangers uber offensive talented top nine simply refused to get dirty and score the kind of goals you need to against the Islanders. Instead they continued to dazzle with the puck on the wall and make east to west passes all game that amounted to nothing for Semyon Varlamov to stop. It was his third shutout of the Rangers this season.
If any Rangers fan was being honest with themselves yesterday, Kevin Rooney and Brett Howden were their best offensive players on the night. They at least forechecked and tried to go north/south with the puck. As nice as it is to see your 4th liners play well, if they are the best you’ve got going you’re likely to come out on the wrong side of the score. Did it hurt not having Jacob Trouba and Chris Kreider out of the lineup yesterday? It sure did, but in the end I don’t think it would’ve been any different.
In the end, the Rangers did themselves in twice against the Islanders in their last six games. They got steamrolled 6-1 a week ago and lost Trouba, and last night it happened again with Ryan Lindgren going down to injury trying to hit Cal Clutterbuck. They may not be mathematically eliminated but their playoff hopes are done with five games left.
Good run. Not good enough.
The Rangers need to get that top center and beef up this summer
The Blueshirts can’t go into next season as the youngest team in the league. They also can’t go into the season overloaded with top six players on all three lines. Simply put, there’s isn’t enough ice time to make everyone effective. They also need to beef up their fourth line if they want to go from potential Stanley Cup contenders to actual ones.
Anyone who has been reading this site for the last few months already know what I am going to write. They need to get Jack Eichel. Yes, he is going to have a herniated disc repaired in his neck, but he’s only 24 and an NHL captain. There’s enough information out there to indicate the Sabres are going to shop him this summer and the Rangers have already put in an offer.
Why Eichel? Because he plays a hard-nosed straight up style and has offensive gifts as good as Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. Last season, he scored 36 goals in 68 games and was on pace for 43. Eichel finished with 78 points and was on a 95 point pace had COVID not cut it short. He did all this while playing for the hapless Buffalo Sabres. Imagine him on a line with Panarin and Kaapo Kakko. I bet the rest of the Metro division next season would rathe not.
The Rangers are going to have to move out players like Vitali Kravtsov, Zac Jones, Filip Chytil, and potentially Ryan Strome to make the changes they need up front. And no they don’t have to move them all for Eichel. They should maybe use one of those pieces to bring in Sean Monahan out of Calgary, or maybe get Sam Bennett’s RFA rights out of Florida to be the third line center.
Morgan Barron should also get a chance to play 3rd line wing or 4th line center minutes next season. Adam Edstrom is a monster in Sweden at 6-6 and 210 lbs, and is a perfect 4th line grinder. Bottom line, the Rangers need to beef up and win draws.
Adding a veteran defenseman
We’ve also recently written about how the Rangers are looking to a veteran blue-liner. I don’t know how big a swing they want to take here, but David Savard is exactly the type of defenseman they need on this defense. You can’t have a bunch of kids anymore. Not if you want to compete and win a Cup soon.
If Savard as a 30 year-old UFA is just too much term on the open market, Alec Martinez could be a better short term fix. He could be the bridge for when Braden Schneider and Matthew Robertson are ready to play for the Rangers.
We know Nils Lundkvist is going to get a shot at camp, but there is no harm in him starting in Hartford to acclimate himself to North American hockey. The Rangers have the luxury of being overloaded with talent on the wings and defense. They also will have a ton of cap space next summer to make the moves they need to.
Change is coming. Be ready for it.
All of yesterday’s NHL action
Read all about the East playoff race, and McDavid’s quest for 100 here.