One of the prevailing theories is that the reason the Rangers have struggled this season is due to the turnover in personal. I for one do not subscribe to theory. Key players gone from last year’s team are Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brandon Prust, John Mitchell, Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Rupp. In their place are Rick Nash, Darroll Powe, Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern, and Arron Asham. If you were at a General Managers’ meeting, would you make that 6-for-5 player trade? I would think you might for Nash alone. The real issue is the lack of a John Tortorella boot camp (due to the lockout), and droves of injuries.
The Rangers enter tonight’s game without the services of Rick Nash, Arron Asham, Michael Del Zotto, and Ryan McDonagh. On top of that, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi are not at 100% health either. While the coach continually states that injuries are part of the game, and that all the teams had the same time to prepare for the season, they are still valid reasons as to why the Rangers enter the game tonight 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
When I asked the coach if he was frustrated about the rash of injuries and if he has to game plan any differently, he responded: “You need to see what you have, we can’t take a lot of penalties tonight, as a lot of the guys are defense haven’t killed penalties for us. We need to be patient, the forwards are going to have to chip in and think about that part of the game instead of anticipating offensively, sometimes things like that can galvanize you, as guys rally around it and make the structure stronger.”
In other words, this would be a trap type game, certainly not an easy task given the Jets size and speed. Not to mention, the Jets entered the contest with an 8-9-1 (17 pts) record, to rank 11th in the Eastern Conference, and came in having won three of their last four games.
When asked in pregame if he would split up Staal and Girardi the coach responded that he would for “balance.” The game opened up with The Rangers using the following line combinations: Hagelin-Richards-Gaborik, Pyatt-Stepan-Callahan, Powe-Boyle-Miller Mashinter-Halpern-Kreider and these defensive pairings Staal-Stralman, Eminger-Girardi, Gilroy-Bickel.
The coach had to be please with what he saw in the first period as for the most part the forwards thought defense first, limiting the Jets to nine shots on goal and generating seven shots themselves while getting the better scoring opportunities. All that hard work would be wiped out in the first few minutes of the second period, when just minutes after Ryan Callahan put on a display of why he is the heart and soul of this NY Rangers team, blocking shot after shot after his stick was broken. But former Ranger Olli Jokinen got the Jets on the board at 5:55 of the second period, when he poked in a rebound after the Rangers got caught running around in the defensive zone. Less then two minutes later, Evander Kane scored his 8th goal of the season, keeping his goal-scoring streak alive at four games.
With Rick Nash out and the Rangers defense severely diminished, Ryan Callahan tried to single handily to put the team on his back. The Captain cut the lead in half with his 5th of the year at 9:28 of the second, Olli Jokinen regained the two-goal lead when Matt Gilroy and Stu Bickel – playing more minutes due to injuries – got caught on the ice for a long shift and failed to get the puck out of the zone several times. The Rangers battled hard in the final few minutes of the period but couldn’t get the puck past Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Would the third period be a period that would, as the coach said “galvanize you, as guys rally around it and make the structure stronger.” Or would it send the Rangers to their forth game in a row without a win and drop them into 11th place?
The Rangers once again would cut the lead to one when Taylor Pyatt tipped one past Pavelec at 9:17, but 20 seconds later Evander Kane would get a goal that Henrik Lundqvist has to make on a night when the Rangers have key players not playing due to injuries.
Henrik acknowledged the fact after the game: “I have to stop, though I felt I played a good game, I need to make that stop.”
The Rangers would fight back once again as Anton Stralman scored the third goal within 73 seconds. The Rangers controlled the play and had numerous quality scoring chances to tie the game following Stralman’s goal, but Pavelec closed the door.
To a man the Rangers felt that this 4-3 loss can be viewed as a positive. Captain Ryan Callahan said after the game that he “felt the with wins you get confidence but I thought tonight we were making plans, we controlled the play for most of the game,I felt tonight our confidence was coming.”
Coach Tortorella when asked if this type of effort can be something that helps the team turn the corner: ” I think if we get some people back, and we have that type of effort and some of the things we did correctly I think we will get on our way,we can say all things we want to say, we just have to try and stay with it and come to work tomorrow and see what our health is and keep going about our business each day. This is what happens when you have some injuries and you have the kids, I get really worried about that , that we are putting them in spot that they just aren’t ready for.”
Hopefully Trapper John gets some of his wounded N*A*S*H unit back soon.