Rangers Recall: Weekend split has team back on track
The New York Rangers hit a bump in the road after consecutive stinkers against the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals. It also represented the first time the team lost two consecutive games on the season, leading to harsh criticism from their head coach.
“It was not good from the start to the finish,” Peter Laviolette remarked after being shutout by the Caps. “No need to dissect it publicly… We need to be sharper with our intent.”
Center Vincent Trocheck backed his coach’s assessment by stating simply they “didn’t play with enough grit and attitude to come out with a win.”
On Sunday night, after traveling from Washington the day before, the Rangers hosted a red-hot Los Angeles Kings squad that plays strong defense and came away with a convincing 4-1 victory.
Let’s break down the weekend split with key takeaways.
Rangers Recall: A good weekend split
Return to basics
The Rangers were in a funk coming into a crucial matchup versus the L.A. Kings, who have the fifth most points in the NHL and lead all teams in goals allowed per game at 2.32. With the way the Blueshirts had been playing, it appeared that the chances of making it three losses in a row were pretty good.
Of course, the Rangers are tied with the Boston Bruins for best point percentage at .750, and have shown an ability to respond. However, the first thing they needed to do was start strong by scoring the first goal of the game, which they hadn’t done in 4 previous tries.
Mika Zibanejad registered a power play goal in a dominant second period that also saw Jimmy Vesey notch what turned out to be his third game-winning goal of the season. All in all, the Rangers dominated the middle frame by outshooting the Kings 11-2.
A wild third period filled with ridiculous penalties saw L.A. cut the lead in half off a power play goal, but the Rangers regrouped to lock it down the rest of the way. With Zibanejad in the box for a 10 minute misconduct after rightfully mouthing off to the referees, it was Jonny Brodzinski scoring the insurance power play tally. Rookie Will Cuylle followed that up by crashing the net and burying his own rebound to secure the win.
It was a strong team performance led by the goaltending of Jonathan Quick, who was not overly tested, but came up big every time he was needed. Ultimately, New York outshot L.A. 27-26, won 62.7% of their draws, dropped 20 hits to L.A.’s 12, and registered two power play tallies.
“I thought it was exactly what we needed to do,” Laviolette said. “For me it was a really good game from start to finish.”
Vincent Trocheck led the way
In the losses to Ottawa and Washington, the Rangers were bad, being outscored by a combined 10-2 margin. Center Vincent Trocheck was a -2 in each contest and held off the scoresheet.
The 30 year-old, now in his second season with the Blueshirts, has become one of the team’s most vocal leaders despite not wearing a letter. He rightfully called out the Rangers lackluster performance in Washington and then led the way against the Kings with three assists, a +1 rating, and winning a staggering 76.2% of his draws in 25:32 of ice time.
“We were a little more prepared from the drop of the puck tonight,” he said Sunday. “Anytime you can do a good job defensively, we like our chances of putting the puck in the net.”
On the season to date, Trocheck has amassed 25 points (6 goals, 19 assists) in 26 games.
When the puck dropped at center ice, it marked the first time Jonathan Quick faced the team where he spent 16 years of his career and won two Stanley Cups. It was also a team that unceremoniously dumped him to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who flipped him to the Vegas Golden Knights without him ever playing a game for them last season.
There’s no doubt the veteran was struggling over the last few years, but it certainly stung when the move happened. During his postgame media scrum, Quick didn’t pretend that facing the Kings wasn’t a big deal, but also commended his team for playing strong hockey in front of him.
“Obviously, it’s special,” Quick said. “The way we played defensively was tremendous. You could see their effort and attention to detail. The team’s performance was phenomenal.”
Quick, 37, is now 8-0-1 with a 2.20 GAA and a .922 save percentage. While there’s no goalie controversy on Broadway, his hot play should allow Igor Shesterkin more time to simplify his game and work on improving without the pressure of having to get in there because he doesn’t have the support of a top-notch backup.