NEW YORK – On the eve of the trading deadline in the NHL, the New York Rangers hosted the Washington Capitals and their newest acquisition Kevin Shattenkirk. The Rangers played for about twenty minutes and then that was it. They fell 4-1 when it was all said and done. The Rangers made their own headlines earlier in the day by trading for defensemen Brendan Smith from Detroit. After all of the activities of trading there was a game to be played and a big test for the Rangers and they dropped their second straight on home ice.
The Blueshirts came out flying in the first period, had the Capitals on their toes and were able to open the scoring on a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play that found Brady Skjei (3rd goal of the season) to put it in the back of the net and the 1-0 lead. In the middle frame, the Rangers couldn’t generate any sort of offense and luckily for them Henrik Lundqvist was on his toes and was insanely sharp. It was only so much for Lundqvist as the Capitals began to swarm and tied the game on a goal by Marcus Johansson and it was all Washington from that point.
You can tell the frustration from head coach Alain Vigneault in his post game press conference as he went on to say, “We started real well. Really liked our first period. Thought we competed, thought we executed. In the second period, their top players seemed like they took their gear to another level, and we didn’t follow. Our top players didn’t execute and compete as hard as theirs. They dominated, without a doubt, the second period. And in the third, we had a couple opportunities, our power play had a couple opportunities, and our guys didn’t get it done.”
With the trade deadline looming, he was asked about if it affects the players on the ice and the coach went on to say, “I don’t think so, our first period tonight, we came ready to play, we executed. We talked about, before the game, about taking their D’s out of the equation. Making sure that they can’t jump up in the attack. Their first goal was, our guy, our forward, going down in the corner and the guy just blows by him, and we get caught and they score. Second one was an unlucky bounce there. It bounced over Clendening’s stick there, and ended up in the back of the net. They just, in the second and the third, they just played harder, they played better than we did.”
The Rangers always like to keep it simple when playing their game and it was evident it was not so simple as pucks bounced over their sticks and players were falling all over the place. Captain Ryan McDonagh when asked what happened after the first twenty minutes he said, “I think we got away from being simple there. Take a page out of their book. They made us go back for pucks all night. It really wore on us. It negated a lot of our team’s speed. We had to use a lot of energy in our zone at times. I think in the second period there we didn’t get through the neutral zone as well and didn’t make them fore check, didn’t wear them down. And that’s got to be one of our strengths, one of our identities against a team like that, (which) has a real good gap and plays some really good structure. It’s going to be tough to find odd-man looks and ice so it’s got to be a straight line kind of game. We let that one go as far as not being simple and working hard.”
It is certainly going to be an interesting night into day tomorrow as the deadline is at 3 PM eastern time. The Rangers were hit hard and it wore them down. It looked to be shades of the Stanley Cup final against Los Angeles as the physical play wore the Rangers down. If there is something general manager Jeff Gorton should look into is a tougher guy in the line-up who has skill. It maybe hard in a tough market, that the general manager made clear in his pregame press conference. Gorton went on to say, “if an opportunity to improve presents itself, we will look at it but we won’t force the issue”. The Rangers are trying to play this one smart to not overpay like what we’ve seen so far for rental players. The Rangers do have a good team up front and can’t be tempted to add just for the sake of adding.
If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rangers don’t do anything major come the deadline tomorrow afternoon. Sleep easy Rangers fans.