It’s very simple, the New York Rangers are not a good hockey team right now. Maybe it’s been the trade-deadline-chaos surrounding the organization that has distracted the players from their on-ice duties, but nonetheless their recent play has been substandard. When speaking with John Giannone prior to puck-drop, Jeff Gorton reiterated the fact that there are no untouchables, and that every Ranger is available, which has led to the feelings of uneasiness, uncertainty, and nervousness for not only the guys on the ice, but also the men behind the bench. As evident with the recent exchanges of veteran pending free agents Michael Grabner and Nick Holden, the fire-sale on Broadway has begun, and the Boys in Blue look like they’re all just anxiously waiting to see if they will still be referring to Madison Square Garden as home, come three o’clock on Monday. The Blueshirts’ disturbing lack of effort and consistency now has them in the basement of the Metropolitan Division, as they have free-fallen down the standings due to their recent 6 game losing skid. At this point, it’s nearly unfathomable to think that this team was still in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, just three weeks ago.
Tonight’s contest was just what you’d expect in a game between a team in the midst of a rebuild, and a team that is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. With both squads entering in their second game of a back-to-back, the Rangers had a chance to play spoiler in what was supposed to be an easy two points for Minnesota, but Alain Vigneault’s team was unable to relish this opportunity. Looking not nearly as disjointed as they did a night ago, things looked good for the Blueshirts early on in this one. Although no quality opportunities came of it, the Rangers were able to generate some sustained offensive zone pressure, something that has been unusual as of late. Through the first 15 minutes, the period had been fairly dull. The only quality scoring chance came on an Eric Staal breakaway, on which Alexandar Georgiev rose to the occasion, stopping the former Ranger with a beautiful left-pad-save. The Blueshirts stayed in it until the last 4 minutes of the first period, but that’s when things started to fall apart. And fall apart quickly.
— Fitz (@FitzyGSN) February 24, 2018
The Rangers breakdown began, when Tony DeAngelo’s pass ricocheted off Eric Staal’s skate, and ended up right in front of the Rangers’ net, where Mikael Granlund would capitalize on a point-blank chance. Granlund sniped a rising snap-shot just under the cross-bar, which flew past Georgiev’s defenseless glove. Just 2:57 later, it was Staal who would continue the scoring, this one coming on a beautiful net-front-tap-in, on which Granlund notched an assist.
The Blueshirts provided a successful second-period-push, as they were able to tally a goal of their own, and had the better of the play for the greater portion of the period. Early in the second frame it was alternate captain, Jesper Fast, who one-timed a slap-shot past Devan Dubnyk, thanks to a beautiful setup from J.T. Miller, to reduce Minnesota’s lead to one. Miller’s assist marked the 100th of his NHL career, and his 27th of the season.
JT➡️Jesper➡️Back of the 🥅
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 24, 2018
The Blueshirts’ momentum-swinging-rally was halted by a late-second-period hooking penalty that was assessed to Rob O’Gara, offering Minnesota a chance to regain control of the contest. The Wild’s power-play carried over into the third period, where they would convert, as Eric Staal struck again, this one coming on a well-executed deflection, that was the outcome of a perfect sequence of passes, of which included Mikael Granlund, who added another point on Staal’s second tally of the tilt. Just about halfway through the third frame, the duo combined for their 4th score of the game, and this time it was Granlund who tickled the twine, with the helper coming from none other than Eric Staal.
The Wild prevailed by a final score of 4-1, handing the Rangers their 6th straight frustrating loss, and an onslaught of boo’s from an infuriated MSG crowd, as Minnesota clinched their sweep of the season series, with both wins coming just 10 days apart. Minnesota was led by Granlund and Staal, who were the game’s first and second stars respectively, and recorded four points apiece. Staal now has totaled an impressive 58 points this season, only making the Rangers’ management look silly for their questionable decision of not even attempting to re-sign their coveted trade deadline acquisition, after his brief and relatively unproductive, yet costly stint as a Blueshirt.
The Rangers rewarded rookie goaltender Alexandar Georgiev with his second consecutive start after his splendid 38 save outing yesterday in Montreal. Georgiev again received little offensive-help, as the Rangers haven’t scored more than one goal in either of his first two career starts. Through two periods tonight at Madison Square Garden, the Blueshirts had only logged 12 shots, which is not a good recipe for offensive success. Georgiev made 33 more saves tonight, and despite the four goals he surrendered, looked solid once again. The Rangers rookie goaltender has put together a great first impression on Broadway, and has shown the potential to become the heir to Henrik Lundqvist if things don’t work out with KHL top-prospect, Igor Shestyorkin.
The only other Blueshirt bright spot, was Chris Kreider. The powerful winger was very effective in his return to the lineup from a 24 game absence due to a blood clot. Kreider’s dynamic mix of size and speed and game-changing ability, is invaluable to the Rangers, as they only managed to pull out 5 regulation wins without his presence in the lineup.
On Sunday night the Detroit Red Wings will travel to Madison Square Garden, to take on the New York Rangers, in an original six matchup. This one will be extra special, as the Rangers will raise Jean Ratelle’s number 19 to the rafters, in what will we be a long-overdue commemorative ceremony. Ratelle was with the Rangers from 1960-1976, and registered 817 points in 862 games. Expect a delightful pregame tribute, but a not as exciting game to follow, as this one will be played between two teams trying to tank their way into the realm of possibly winning the first overall pick in the 2018 entry draft, where coveted defenseman, Rasmus Dahlin, will finally find a home (7:00 PM, MSG).
Brian Paget is on Twitter @BrianPaget17