The hard-nose, aggressive, and relentless New York Rangers seemed absent in last night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was far from the game Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, where Ryan Callahan captured his 200th NHL point, Henrik Lundqvist had a solid 26 saves and Michael Del Zotto had a stellar performance with one goal and one assist. With Callahan out due to a shoulder subluxation injury that came late in the third period last game against the Flyers, the Rangers were missing some of their hard-hitting physicality.
With just 1:54 into the first period, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin tallied his team’s first goal to lead 1-0. The score would remain, until early in the third period where James Neal deflected Sydney Crosby’s wind-up one timer and would up the Penguin’s lead to 2-0. Neal’s goal would be the result of a bench minor penalty on the Rangers, which would make it the third time in 3 games that a goal has come on the man advantage against the Blueshirts as a result of a bench minor. The Rangers did have a few prime scoring opportunities, one in particular coming on the power play at 9:44 in the third period. Anton Stralman riffled a low shot that hit just inside the post, and ricocheted to the middle of the ice where the Penguins would go back down the ice. Pascal Dupuis would recover the puck and send Simon Despres on a breakaway out of the penalty box to make it 3-0 Pittsburgh. The third period would cease at 3-0, and the Rangers would end their home stretch with 2 wins and 1 loss.
This is the second match up the Blueshirts faced against Penguins goalie, Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun captured the win in both games this season against the Rangers, and it is important to note that the Penguins acquired Vokoun as a backup to Marc Andre-Fleury. Fleury has not made an appearance yet this season against the Rangers, but with the success of Vokoun against the Blueshirts thus far, we might not being seeing Fleury at all.
While the penalties have hurt the Blueshirts squad, one thing to keep in mind is that the Rangers have new players on their PK unit that are getting used to the new system. With all the post-season trades during the lockout, the Blueshirts lost penalty killers such as Brandon Prust, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Ruslan Fedotenko. It is not that the Rangers are missing these players per se, but it takes time for the new group to gel and it is just a matter of time before it will start coming together. In the meantime, it is a continued work in progress. Don’t give up hope just yet Rangers fans, the lockout may not be an excuse, but for a new PK unit to find its niche it takes patience.
Too Many Men, Not Enough Goals
One key thing that has been hurting the Rangers is the consistent bench minor penalties that have happened 4 times, last night being the fourth. These mistakes have proved costly with goals coming from the opponent’s man advantage 3 times already this season.
“We just had no jets, we couldn’t get on the attack and we had no jump,” Assistant coach Mike Sullivan said of a lifeless Ranger group last night. The Rangers are a team that are very front-end heavy. They rely on their top players to score goals, and when those players are not playing well it is tough to win. The puck struck iron three times last night. When the Rangers are playing well the pucks go in. The lack of captain, Ryan Callahan did not help the Blueshirts as they lacked the quick turnovers that players like Callahan help to create. One thing the Rangers use to their advantage is their aggressiveness, and when the Rangers get to the puck first and cause those quick turnovers, goals will happen.
The next game is this Saturday in Tampa Bay against the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7pm ET.