Rangers Recall: A ‘funny’ and ‘tough’ loss to the Blue Jackets

If you missed the New York Rangers game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, and read they outshot their opponent by a 42-21 margin, you’d expect a lopsided victory.

Throw in the fact that Columbus’ starting goalie Elvis Merzlikins left the game after two periods, the Blueshirts controlled the face-off circle at 57.6%, and took just one penalty, a 5-3 loss would be a shock to you.

“A funny game, a tough game,” coach Peter Laviolette lamented. “It wasn’t a volume of defensive things, but there were some issues that could’ve been better… There were some odd man rushes I didn’t like and some [bad habits] that snuck in there that we’ve got to take out.”

It was a weird one for sure, with the Rangers having two goals disallowed in the first period, that were barely offside. Had either one of them counted, the complexion of the game may have been different.

Defenseman Ryan Lindgren was also out due to an upper-body injury, that likely threw the pairings off. Laviolette dismissed that notion and stated that would be an ‘excuse’. Regarding Lindgren, he’s day-to-day with further evaluation slated for today.

Let’s recall some of the key takeaways from the Rangers’ loss to the Jackets.

Rangers Recall: 5-3 loss vs Blue Jackets

NHL: New York Rangers at Columbus Blue Jackets
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Sloppy Defense

The Rangers were good most of the night in Columbus, but a far cry from the excellent performance displayed in their 5-1 opening night win against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.

From what I could tell, the Rangers made several bad plays in the offensive zone, followed by terrible reads in the neutral zone, marked by coverage issues in the defensive zone on all the goals against.

“We got looser as the game went on,” captain Jacob Trouba said. “There were some turnovers we didn’t particularly love… We’re building trust in our game. The first game we liked a lot, but today we saw things we can clean up. We’re still learning [this system] and we’ll get more comfortable as we go.”

Zac Jones and Braden Schneider pairing was not good

First off, this loss should not be pinned on Zac Jones and Braden Schneider, who were each a -2 in the game. However, the youngsters looked out-of-sync, which led to a number of good scoring chances against.

On one play, Schneider tried to reverse the puck to Jones under an aggressive forecheck, but it hopped over Jones’ stick leading to a turnover and a goal against. Another issue for Jones was his inability to box or move his man out of the crease, which led to an easy Boone Jenner deflection for his hat trick.

At this time, the extent of Lindgren’s injury is unknown, but if he’s out for an extended amount of games, it would behoove the Rangers to call up Ben Harpur.

Blake Wheeler hasn’t done much

Yes, it’s very early in the season, but I expected a little more out of veteran Blake Wheeler.

In 2 games, the 37 year-old vet has mustered just 3 shots on goal and sports a -2 rating. Playing primarily on a third line with Vincent Trocheck and Will Cuylle, he looks a step behind. Last night, he was essentially benched in the third period as the team looked to make an offensive push and rolled just three lines.

There’s obviously no need to hit the panic button, especially since he’s signed for just one-year on a cap friendly AAV of $800,000. That being said, if this continues, bumping up the faster Jimmy Vesey to the third line and moving Wheeler on the checking unit would make a lot of sense.

Will Cuylle getting better

Aside from the above mentioned negative issues, the fact that the Rangers dominated in the offensive zone shouldn’t be overlooked. However, they still lost which makes it hard to draw out a lot of positives.

The brightest spot of the night, is the continued good play of rookie Will Cuylle, who is a player on the rise. In the third period, he tallied his first NHL point by scoring his first goal with the New York Rangers.

It took the youngster 6 career games to get on the board, but he played a very limited role in the 4 games he was called up for last season. Thus far in 2 games, he’s recorded a goal on 4 shots, notched 6 hits, and holds a +1 rating.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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