Left Winger Evander Kane (#9) of the Winnipeg Jets during the warm-ups prior to the start of the game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the visiting Winnipeg Jets by a score of 2-1.
Evander Kane recently stated that he wanted to have a breakout game against the New York Rangers and start generating offense for his team. While he didn’t have the breakout performance he would have hoped, Kane was the difference maker in Saturday night’s game at Madison Square Garden when he scored the game-winning shootout goal in the fourth round to get his team back to .500 (5-5-1) with another road win.
Not only did Kane best Henrik Lundqvist and get his team two points, but he also had a huge impact on the Rangers’ defense moving forward. Kane, who played his third game of the season and his second since returning from a knee injury, knocked out Rangers’ Captain Ryan McDonagh in the first period when he hit him behind the goal line and into the boards. McDonagh suffered a separated shoulder and is scheduled to have an MRI to examine the extent of the damage.
This is a huge loss for the Rangers. McDonagh is a major player on the squad often logging the most ice time and defending against the league’s top scorers. He is also a key component on the Rangers’ special team units. Coming into the game McDonagh led the team in power play assists, points and time, as well as penalty kill time, and is third on the team in blocked shots when shorthanded. If losing McDonagh wasn’t bad enough, the Rangers also played most of the game without defenseman, Kevin Klein. He too left in the first period with a foot contusion and will undergo an MRI. Going forward the Rangers may be without three of their top defensemen, as John Moore still has four more games to serve on his suspension.
The core aspect of the Rangers’ identity has taken a hit. The team is known for being solid defensively, but the Blueshirts have been anything but to start this season. The defensemen are making too many mistakes in their own zone and aren’t generating offense. Klein is the only defenseman on the team to record a goal; he has two on the season. The Rangers are also recognized as a shutdown team that always excels on the penalty kill and has the ability to prevent Lundqvist from seeing too much action. While the defensemen have done a decent job, they aren’t playing at the compete level they should be. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, two leaders on the team, haven’t been as noticeable on the ice as they have been in recent years. Paired together last night, and playing a lot due to losing Klein and McDonagh, Girardi and Staal looked like their old selves. They, along with Michael Kostka and Matt Hunwick, anchored the defense and held the Jets to only six shots in the first, and eight shots in each of the remaining two periods. Without being able to determine how long the Rangers’ defense will be depleted, Kostka and Hunwick will have to step up along with the defensemen the Rangers will have to recall.
Aside from playing men down, the Rangers were unable to finish. Ondrej Pavelec has an exceptional game, stopping 38 shots through 65 minutes of play. He handled everything the Rangers threw at him and stayed strong when the Rangers were on the power play. The Jets, a little undisciplined in the game, gave the Rangers five power play opportunities. The Rangers had the chance to bury a few early in the game, when they had back-to-back power plays. Unfortunately, the Rangers cannot find consistency on the man-advantage. Results are something the Rangers’ power play rarely produces. It has been a problem for the team for awhile. The Blueshirts can set up in the offensive zone, but have a tough time putting the puck in the net no matter who is stationed between the pipes. The Rangers look to make nice plays, which they should, but they seem to always make one pass too many or try a cross-ice pass that gets intercepted.
“We need to produce,” said Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault when asked about the power play postgame.
It was a simple answer, with a complex solution. Right now, the Rangers have the worst power play in the league. They have not been able to score on the man-advantage at home and only have two PPGs on the road. Granted, the Jets are very good on the PK, seventh in the league and the team is especially good defending a man-down on the road, coming into Saturday night’s game with a road PK that is 90 percent effective, the Rangers must be tired of coming up with excuses for why the power play just won’t click.
While the team can still find ways to win and score at even strength, the Rangers must find a way to beef up their power play and fill the void that is left in the team’s back end.