Rangers Recall: Absence of Adam Fox and Filip Chytil felt in Wild shootout loss
The New York Rangers were overwhelmed by a desperate home team in Minnesota on Saturday night, as the Wild roared back from a 3-0 deficit for a 5-4 shootout win.
In what seemed like a cakewalk for the Blueshirts on the road after the first period, the losses of Adam Fox (LTIR) on defense coupled with Filip Chytil (IR) and Barclay Goodrow (personal) up front became glaringly painful.
With those players out, Zac Jones was reinserted into the lineup, and proceeded to struggle with Braden Scheidner most of the game by being pinned in their own zone. Jonny Brodzinski, who centered the third line simply could not find chemistry with his line mates Will Cuylle and Blake Wheeler, ultimately reducing that line’s overall ice time.
“We were out of sync,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “The start of the game was good, penalty kill was good, but then it just kind of lost its track for us.”
Let’s recall some of the key takeaways from the Rangers shootout loss to the Wild.
Rangers Recall: A blown 3 goal lead in Minnesota
Zac Jones and Braden Schneider pairing
In Minnesota, the Rangers bumped Erik Gustafsson to the top-four on defense and moved Ryan Lindgren to the right side to accommodate. That reunited the pairing of youngsters Zac Jones and Braden Schneider, who finished -1 and -2 respectively.
As a pair, Jones and Schneider struggled to get pucks out of the zone, leading to immense pressure on Jonathan Quick, who stole a point with 36 saves on 40 shots. According to Natural Stat Trick, that pairing’s CF% was an abysmal 32.26.
To be fair, Gustafsson and Lindgren weren’t that much better at 38.71 CF%, but that duo usually went up against stiffer competition.
The Rangers are simply going to have to do something with Fox on LTIR due to a lower-body issue. Placing Jones and possibly losing him on waivers for nothing isn’t an option, since the 23 year-old is a valuable trade asset. I also don’t think playing recalled defenseman Connor Mackey is the answer.
So what should they do?
The obvious answer for me is to send Mackey down and recall Ben Harpur. If the Rangers are unwilling to do that, it may make more sense to restore the pairing of Gustafsson with Schneider, and to play Jones with a veteran like Jacob Trouba. That would create an odd pairing of K’Andre Miller with Lindgren on the right, but would likely work better than what we saw last night.
Rangers bottom-six out of sync
Another glaring issue was the Rangers bottom-six with Chtyil and Goodrow out.
The line combo of Brodzinski, Cuylle, and Wheeler took the biggest hit as they combined for an atrocious CF% 26.67. Although Cuylle and Wheeler recorded an assist on Gustafsson’s goal, each member of that line was a -1.
Goodrow is expected to return for Tuesday’s game versus the Detroit Red Wings after the birth of his child. He could easily center that line and return Brodzinski to the press box.
As for the fourth line, with Nick Bonino, Jimmy Vesey, and Tyler Pitlick, they struggled in the CF% department but also produced a goal. However, with limited options, it would be wise to give them another game to show they can be counted on to keep opponents off the scoreboard. Each member of the unit finished with a +1 rating.
Update: Rangers recall Jonny Brodzinski (F), Connor Mackey (D), and Louis Domingue (G)
On the brighter side
All was not gloom and doom in Minnesota.
The Rangers did battle back in the third period with Chris Kreider scoring a patented net-front deflection for his 8th of the season. Furthermore, Artemi Panarin remains red-hot, extending his season-opening point streak to 11 games (6 goals, 12 assists).
Despite seeing a six-game winning streak snapped, the Blueshirts still have a seven-game point streak intact. They maintain a three point lead in the Metro Division over second-place Carolina Hurricanes and are tied for third overall in the NHL at 17 points.
Coming back home to the Garden on Tuesday, the Rangers will begin a stretch of three straight at home. Knowing Laviolette, he will get them back to basics and executing their systems properly. In addition, having the last change allows him the ability to shelter Jones a little more and get favorable matchups.