Weekend in Review: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
After a valiant effort Friday night to knock off the top team in the league, the Rangers closed the weekend out with a devastating loss on home ice to the Islanders.
Good: The Rangers start Friday. As mentioned in the Contenders and Pretenders Blog, the Caps have a flaw in frequently giving up the first goal of a game. The Rangers were able to capitalize on this, jumping out to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals by Fast and Yandle.
Ugly: The Rangers start Sunday. Eerily similar to the stretch at the end of the second period against the Pens, the Rangers came out against to the Islanders sleep walking. From the drop of the puck there was no forecheck, inaccurate passes, and an overall lack of effort from the team in blue. The Islanders took advantage in the form of a 3-0 lead. Furthermore, the Rangers failed to register a shot on goal in nearly the entire first half of the period.
Good: The Rangers effort Friday and ~50-minute effort Sunday. Playing without Lundqvist, the Rangers elevated their game to get past the Caps. The Rangers seem to play best when the odds are against them and Friday was no different. Sunday, after the initial onslaught, the Rangers dug down deep and pulled off an improbable comeback to tie the game in the third. During these stretches of play when the Rangers are at the top of their game they look untouchable and will be a hard-out in the playoffs if they compete at this level.
Ugly: The decision to have Stepan take the defensive zone face-off which led to the game-losing goal. If Vigneault was listening to the MSG broadcast, he would have heard Sam raving about the success of Staal in the face-off circle (20 for 22 in the game). Unfortunately, AV elected to have Stepan take the draw, who has won just 46% on the year. AV went on to say in the postgame interview that Staal was taken off the ice because he was finishing up a long shift. Moore, who was also on the ice at the time of the goal, was another option to take the draw. He is 56% this year in face-offs and a better candidate in my opinion to try and win a D-zone faceoff late in the game. There is no telling if this would have changed the outcome of the game, but having Stepan take that face-off did not give the Rangers the best chance to win.
Bad: The “review-gate” saga which unfolded against the Capitals. Yes, after the game this was a confirmed goal. But the fact that the NHL does not provide access to all cameras used in reviews for live broadcast is lunacy. In today’s tech-driven world, this just doesn’t make much sense. It is almost as if the league wants to buy time in order to devise an explanation for why a certain decision was made. The in-post cameras are also not used in every arena! So, if this game were played in an arena without this view the goal would likely not have counted? How can this be possible? This “hawk-eye” system needs to be in every arena if it is going to be used, and it needs to be made available for display for fans in the arena and on TV so we do not have a repeat episode from Friday.
Good: The Staal-bergs line. For many of the poor coaching decisions we can throw at AV, keeping Staal on the line between Lindberg and Stalberg seems to be working. Previously, I stated that Staal was without a home on this team and he did not look comfortable bouncing around the lineup in his first few games on the team. As unconventional as it is to have a high-paid asset on the third line, those three are clicking on all cylinders and starting to produce on the scoreboard with Eric finding the back of the net for the first time as a Blueshirt Sunday. Being on the third line has not retracted from Staals playing time either, as he led the offense in minutes Sunday.
Bad: JT Miller being benched. To be clear, I am not saying he didn’t deserve to be benched. Before finding the pine Sunday, I did not see much from his game which stood out as being a bench-able offence. However, I am not a coach and the staff clearly saw something in his play which they didn’t approve of. If this team expects to make a run for the cup, we will need Miller to be at the top of his game. We will see if this lights a fire under him going forward, or if he will continue to see diminished minutes next game.
A lot to digest this weekend and there is an abundance of topics which could have been discussed above. Bottom line, we walk away from the two games with a sour taste in our mouths, which is unfortunate for what could have been if the Rangers were able to pull through Sunday night. A slow week ahead with just one game until Saturday hopefully will provide some much needed healing time. Still a lot of hockey remaining with 16 games left in the regular season campaign.
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