The Rangers were back in action Sunday afternoon hosting the Vancouver Canucks and marking the beginning of a five gamer home stand. The Rangers landed back in New York on Saturday following an ugly loss to the Washington Capitals Friday night. The Rangers were out chanced and ultimately out-played by a well-rounded Capitals team that appeared to take advantage of all of their chances against an undisciplined Rangers squad who did not learn their lesson after their penalty-filled contest against New Jersey. However, the first line of the Rangers continued to stand out against Washington. Mika Zibanejad racked up another two points, assisting on both of the Rangers goals. Pavel Buchnevich continued to play well and scored a beautiful powerplay goal that tied the game early. The Breadman also stayed hot, scoring yet another goal and continued to maintain his point per game pace so far this season. Despite an ugly outing (and that is the calmest way I can describe it), the blueshirts looked to turn an early skid around and get back on to their winning ways against Vancouver. Former Ranger J.T. Miller also made his first appearance at the Garden with his new team. Miller had been deployed on the Canucks top line so far this season and had made the most of his chances. If only he could have figured out a way to do that in a Rangers uniform…
Unfortunately, the Rangers did not come onto the ice like a team in desperate need of a win. In fact, it was an utterly pathetic effort early in this one. The Rangers were once again victims of some early penalties, as young defenseman, Libor Hajek was guilty of a hooking call giving the Canucks an early man advantage. At 06:01 of the first period, Vancouver capitalized on this chance as new captain, Bo Horvat buried his second goal of the season and past Henrik Lundqvist. Unlike most of the games so far this season, this contest looked to get really ugly. The Canucks continued to keep the puck in the Rangers end and maintained contest pressure around Lundqvist. The Rangers looked to be completely lost in their own end and could not match the effort and speed of the Vancouver forwards, leading to numerous turnovers in the Rangers own zone. At 13:34 of the first period one of these turnovers finally ended up in the back of the net. The classic combination of Marc Staal and Brendan Smith, whose levels of competency and athleticism can only be compared to that of a wet paper towel. This ten million dollar tandem of cinderblock hands and Secretariat vision managed to both whiff on a clearing attempt and unsuccessfully poke the puck up the boards past one defender. This lead Canucks Brock Boeser to walk into the zone, untouched and fire the puck off of the glove of Henrik Lundqvist, giving the Canucks a 2-0 lead. The bleeding did not stop. Later in the period the Rangers found themselves on the powerplay hoping to make up ground on an early 2-0 deficit. Except that didn’t happen, instead they managed to give up a shorthanded goal to Arron Asham knockout victim, Jay Beagle, who wired a wrist shot past the Rangers goalkeeper and gave the 1994 Stanley Cup runner-ups a 3-0 lead at the end of the first period.
The second period did not start much better for the boy in blue. The still seemed to lethargic and did not play like a team hoping to overcome a sizeable deficit in front of their hometown crowd. Despite being outshot 37 to 23 through the first two period of play, Henrik Lundqvist managed to keep the Canucks lead at only three. The Rangers finally broke the ice at 14:58 of the period. After Jesper Fast had joined the fore-check and dug a loose puck out from behind the Vancouver net, the puck found its way out to the stick of Jacob Trouba who fired a shot that was touched again by Fast before ending up behind goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
Fast, who seemed like the only Ranger with any energy and grit to his game that afternoon also sparked some Rangers momentum while blocking a series of shots on a penalty kill earlier in the period. The second period ended with the Rangers behind 3-1.
The Rangers started off the third period like a team that knew it possessed the ability to come back and win this game. They controlled the puck and pace of play in an absolutely dominant fashion. At 05:31 of the period, Artemi Panarin lit the lamp once again for New York. Panarin fired a Jesper Fast centering pass past an unsuspecting Markstrom and chipped the Vancouver lead to only one with the majority of the period left to play.
Chance after chance seemed to go back as the Rangers came only inches from eliminating the Vancouver lead. The Rangers outshot the Canucks 17 to 6 in the period and despite sustained pressure and great opportunities and blueshirts were unable to put a third puck over the goal line and extended their losing streak to four games in a row.
This may be obvious, but the lack of defensive structure and the inability to find scoring depth outside of their big guns has been a concern thus far. On top of my personal skepticism towards the nightly lineups we have seen this, the overall feel of the team so far this season has not been one that will be contending for a playoff spot at least this season. I hope to cover the current state of the roster and coach’s decisions later this week. The Rangers will be back in action tonight at 7pm against the Arizona Coyotes who are also off to a strong and surprising start this year. I’m praying the hockey gods will have a few bounces go our way in order to end this miserable string of hockey games over the last two weeks.