Rangers vs Capitals: Physical play and a full 60 are the keys to a win tonight

By Julia Capitelli
new york rangers eliminated
May 3, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Daniel Sprong #10 of the Washington Capitals scores an unassisted goal at 4:37 of the third period against Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers vs Capitals: Despite being eliminated from playoff contention on Monday night, the Rangers still want to finish their season strong. This is an idea that David Quinn has expressed in past years and has continued to preach.

The Rangers have lost three in a row going into tonight. The shutouts against the Islanders were rather distasteful. The game on Monday against the Capitals was at least more competitive. But tonight, it comes down to playing a full 60 minutes with an element of physicality in order to have success.

Rangers vs Capitals: Playing a full 60 has been a persistent issue

Throughout the season, David Quinn and his players have spoken about the need to play a full game every night. However, they haven’t been able to do that of late. The Rangers must apply pressure from the start against the Capitals. On Monday, as soon as they relented, the Capitals took advantage of it. By the third period, the Capitals had more jump to their game. It became very difficult for the Rangers to spend meaningful time in the offensive zone. The Rangers must find a way to keep a certain level of intensity in their game throughout. Putting the pressure on in the first and second periods isn’t enough, especially against a team like the Capitals. This team can create offense even when given little space and time to work with.

The Rangers got off to a faster start on Monday night which is something they must do again. A quick start helps to set the tone not only for their opponent, but for the Rangers themselves. A few effective shifts right at the beginning send a message to the rest of the team. However, an energetic start only matters if the intensity and urgency are maintained throughout the game.

Zibanejad, Kakko, Lafreniere showing what the Rangers are capable of

NEW YORK RANGERS
Apr 25, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers is surrounded by teammates after he scored a hat trick in the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden on April 25, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Mika Zibanejad led by example on Monday night. As one of the alternate captains who does not seem like a very vocal leader, this is very valuable. Zibanejad had plenty of jump in his game. He recorded two goals, and almost had a third. He was certainly noticeable all over the ice. It seemed he was trying to set the tone for the Rangers. That’s what a leader does. It’s clear that Zibanejad is a skilled and talented player, but there’s something to be said for his leadership qualities as well. On a young team, it’s important to have someone who leads by example in order to establish a culture.

Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere combined for a beautiful goal off of a two-on-one on Monday. The goal helped the Rangers take a 3-2 lead, if only briefly. The pass from Lafreniere back to Kakko was a display of patience and hockey IQ. He read off the defenseman well and was able to make a quick move and get the puck back to Kakko. From there, Kakko used a clever deke to beat Vitek Vanecek. The move was similar to one he used at the World Championships in 2019 that put him on the highlight reel. That in itself is indicative of how much more confident Kakko has become. This play by the Rangers’ two developing stars was a highly encouraging display of skill and one the fans have been waiting for. The future is certainly bright.

Rangers need to incorporate an element of physicality

The Rangers responded to Tom Wilson’s act of violence by releasing a statement taking a direct shot at the head of the Department of Player Safety, George Parros, last night. However, they now need an on-ice response. What Wilson did to Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin was inexcusable and warrants more than a $5000 fine. He punched Buchnevich, shoving his face farther into the ice while also pulling up on his stick which was caught under Buchnevich’s neck. I don’t recall choking a player during a scrum being legal. So why is the league tolerating it? Additionally, Wilson body slammed Panarin into the ice several times while he had his helmet off. He then proceeded to punch him with his gloves on which is also illegal.

Tom Wilson was called a fraud by Paul Stewart because he goes after finesse players. Dishonorable is another word. If Wilson were really so tough, he would go after the league’s heavyweights. But I’d like to see him fight someone like Ryan Reaves. Buchnevich and Panarin are both skill players. Further, continuing to go at a player after he’s down is not honorable in the slightest. There is nothing respectable about attacking a vulnerable, or completely defenseless player. Clearly, the league is uninterested in doing anything meaningful about it which is ridiculous considering the facts of the incident and that Wilson is a repeat offender.

So now the Rangers must respond. Along with getting off to a quick start, they require some big hits early. They must set the tone of the game. They have to show the Capitals that what Wilson did was unacceptable and they won’t stand idly by while their star player is out for the remaining three games of the season. There have been some rumors floating around Mason Geertsen possibly getting a call-up. That would be helpful considering his physical style of play. However, this is not confirmed at this time. The Rangers need another plan. Someone is going to have to step up. In general, the Rangers generally prefer a finesse style of play. That is going to have to change.

For more on tonight’s lineup check out yesterday’s practice report.

Rangers vs Capitals Pregame Notes

  • All-Time vs Capitals: 103-100-18-11 (57-45-9-5 at home; 46-55-9-6 on the road)
  • The Blueshirts are the only NHL team that has five players who have recorded at least 45 points in 2020-21 (no other team has more than three). New York is one of two NHL teams that have three players who have registered 20 or more goals this season (Pittsburgh).
  • New York ranks 11th in the NHL in goals per game this season (3.19). The Rangers¬†will average at least 3.00 goals per game for the second consecutive season, marking the first time the team has averaged 3.00 or more goals per game in two straight seasons since 1995-96 and 1996-97.¬†Including team goals awarded for a shootout win, the Rangers have tallied three or more goals in each of their 26 wins in 2020-21.

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