New York – For the 206th consecutive time the New York Rangers had a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden and for the crowd it was anything but New Years fun as the Blueshirts fell to the 14-15-8 Buffalo Sabres by a score of 4-1. It was a night of disaster for almost every Rangers player with the exception of Henrik Lundqvist who didn’t have much help in front of him.
The start of the 2017 portion of the season for the Rangers didn’t start off well and they hope to quickly turn it around when they face off against the Philadelphia Flyers tomorrow night in Philly. It took nearly thirteen minutes before the Rangers registered a shot on goal. Two first period goals for the visitors had the Rangers being booed off the ice as they were unable to generate any sort of offense.
It was one of those nights Rangers fan are all too familiar with; coming off three straight wins including a comeback against the Ottawa Senators a week ago, then two blow outs against sub .500 teams in the Coyotes and Avalanche had all the makings of what they call “trap” game. It’s a funny term used in sports because in a game you expect to win and it doesn’t happen they define it as a trap game. Not to take any credit away from the Sabres who played an excellent physical hockey game, this was a game you wanted to grab another two points from and did not.
The Rangers found themselves chasing the puck the entire night and were able to use their speed game – in which has made them so successful this season – to generate anything. The somewhat consistency we saw was that of the line of Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello but even that was faint.
There are no excuses for games like this in which the defense was no where to be found at points in the game. Coach Alain Vigneault, not happy with the play went on to say, “I won’t take anything away from the opposition here, but there’s no doubt we didn’t do a good enough job in preparing our team for tonight’s game. I mentioned it many times: there are no easy games in this league. We weren’t ready when the game started, our execution was nonexistent, we didn’t have a “D” that could make a pass, and our compete level was not good enough. I haven’t said this very often about this group since I’ve been here, but this was a very bad game where we got out-worked badly, and we’re going to need to respond here.”
He realizes a quick turnaround is needed and he know the Flyers will be ready to play. He also went on to say he will look at film and see if any line up changes need to be made.
Lundqvist, who didn’t look sharp but neither did his team knew the Sabres were hungry from the start, “You could tell the first 10 minutes of the game they were hungry, they came with a lot of speed and desperation in their game, and a lot of times that’s what’s going to win you hockey games. They kind of set the tone in the first 10 minutes, and obviously they got some timely goals. (We) made some mistakes, and it’s my job to be there and clean it up, but was just not able to do that.”
You can only have short term memory for games like this and when asked about moving on, the winningest goaltender by a European-born player went on to say, “You don’t have a choice. I think everybody understands that there are certain plays that happen throughout the game that kind of decide where it’s going. We had some momentum, we scored a goal and tried to come back, then they get on the power play early in the third and kind of killed that momentum. You should not overanalyze things. We know what we have to do playing tomorrow against a really good team playing at home. There’s always a lot of energy in that building, so a few corrections here and we’ll be ready to battle tomorrow.”
Captain Ryan McDonagh, understandably frustrated talked about tonight’s game and went on to say, “We didn’t make a pass. If we did, then we tried to get probably a little too cute. (We) didn’t put enough pucks on this goalie and didn’t fight to get in front of the net like they did. Pretty much all around tonight, in all areas, we didn’t execute when we had the puck. We put it on their tape a handful of times and special teams didn’t generate much off the power play. We gave up a PK goal so you can cross about everything off the list of what we talk about in being sharp and that didn’t happen.”
Vocal leader Derek Stepan talked about the failed execution and went on to say, “My big thing is and what I think is such an important thing for our group is when we aren’t executing passes, and executing our one on one battles and winning those, we put ourselves in a really tough spot. Everyone on the ice has to raise their level. I go back to execution. There are things you can easily say compete level and moving your feet and stuff like go along with it, but for me our execution tonight was really what surprised me. We just weren’t even close and that’s every single player.”
The Rangers need to fix it quick and gear up for the Flyers tomorrow and then a Saturday showdown with the hottest team in hockey, the Columbus Blue Jackets before they go into their five day break. Points are at stake and in a tight division anything can happen so the Rangers must be on their game.
Nick Holden registered a goal and was credited with two hits in 19:25 of ice time. He leads Rangers defensemen in goals (eight) and even strength goals (six) this season. Holden has registered nine points (five goals, four assists) in the last 12 games, including five points (four goals, one assist) in the last four contests.
Henrik Lundqvist made his 712th career appearance with the Rangers in tonight’s contest, passing Olaf Kolzig for the fourth-most appearances by a goaltender with one franchise in NHL history. The only goaltenders in NHL history who have appeared in more career games with one franchise than Lundqvist has with the Rangers are Martin Brodeur (New Jersey), Tony Esposito (Chicago), and Terry Sawchuk (Detroit).
Alain Vigneault coached his 286th career game as the Rangers’ Head Coach tonight, passing Herb Brooks for sole possession of seventh place on the franchise’s all-time games coached list.