Rangers Recall: Igor Shesterkin rusty as team unravels in Dallas
All good things must come to an end, and the red-hot New York Rangers learned that the hard way in Dallas on Monday.
After a solid first period against the Central Division leading Stars, the team slowly started to unravel watching a 2-0 lead evaporate under persistent pressure. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Dallas would score six goals to halt the Rangers point streak at 11 games (10-0-1) and Artemi Panarin’s franchise setting opening season point streak at 15 games (10 goals, 16 assists).
“It was kind of one of those periods where things didn’t go our way in the third,” captain Jacob Trouba stated. “It’s nothing to panic over. We just have to move on and keep playing our game.”
Let’s look at some key takeaways in the Rangers loss to the Stars.
Rangers Recall: Tough loss in Dallas
Igor Shesterkin rusty
Since returning from a lower-body injury that occurred on November 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Rangers main-man in net has looked rusty.
Despite being 1-1-0, his GAA of 3.53 and .896 save percentage are way below his usual stats. When trying to analyze his last two starts, his positioning and reaction time seem fine. From my point of view, it appears Shesterkin doesn’t have the feel for the puck back yet.
Against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, he didn’t squeeze his body enough to prevent Jack Hughes’ shot from slowly rolling through him. In Dallas last night, Mason Marchment was able to push in the eventual game-winner on a puck that Shesterkin fumbled around with and couldn’t cover or seal his pads tight.
Igor went 16 days between games, so being a little off was expected. And let’s not forget that he didn’t come back and play the Columbus Blue Jackets or Chicago Blackhawks. Shesterkin returned after a long layoff to face two of the top teams in the league.
Peter Laviolette needs to get Shesterkin more reps, but needs wins as well to stay atop a very competitive Metro Division. So it will be interesting with three games in four nights (Pit, Phi, Bos) if Jonathan Quick, who has been super-sharp, gets two of these next contests.
My guess, is the coach will go back to Shesterkin against the Penguins on Wednesday and then split the back-to-back with the Flyers and Bruins.
The Defense Rests
Watching the Blueshirts in the final 40 minutes of play, especially in the third period, it was clear that they were out of gas as a 5-man unit defensively.
No one was particularly very good, but the line of Vincent Trocheck, Artemi Panarin, and Alexis Lafreniere were all a -3 each. While they were caught up ice trying to press the attack, Zac Jones on the blue-line had a very rough night going -3 himself. His partner, Braden Schneider, was a -1.
Jones is a solid puck-moving defenseman, and well suited for games against fast teams. However, the Stars are a big team that goes hard to the net and that’s where the smaller Jones struggles.
With Adam Fox close to returning, Jones will once again be relegated to the press box. While fans wonder if Chris Drury will target a center or winger at the trade deadline, it would not surprise me if at some point this season, he doesn’t trade for a big 7th defenseman instead.
Kaapo Kakko scores
On a positive note, Kaapo Kakko ended a long scoring drought with a goal, just his second of the year and third point in 16 games.
The 22 year-old has struggled, but hopefully this gets him going. His biggest issue is playing on the perimeter and maybe last night’s fluky goal caused by driving to the net will open his eyes to change his game.
It will be interesting to see if Laviolette now opts to return Kakko back to Mika Zibanejad’s line to keep this going.