This is going to be a little bit of a mixed recap. I'll run through some games notes but then I'm going to turn the wheel and talk some bigger picture stuff.
- That home opener could have gone a lot better, no? I thought the Rangers were sluggish but fine overall in the first. Then they got their teeth kicked in early and often in the second period and there's not much that really can happen down 6-2 in the third.
- The biggest culprits? Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. Look, every team has a game where their best players aren't their best players -- which is what happened Sunday night with the Rangers first pairing -- but when it happens to a team with so little defensive depth as it is? That's when things get ugly; which they did.
- Speaking of bad games from big players: Henrik Lundqvist? Woof. Cam Talbot looked a hell of a lot better than Saturday, though.
- I thought Marc Staal and Kevin Klein were better as a unit, but that's not saying much. John Moore improved a little as well. Matt Hunwick had a few good moments but a few really poor decisions in his own zone as well. (We'll have a deeper look at the team's defensive options here later today.)
- Klein, Moore and Hunwick played more than McDonagh did Sunday night. Let that one sink in.
- I thought Anthony Duclair and Lee Stempniak were -- once again -- the Rangers best offensive players. Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis weren't far behind. That pass from St. Louis to Nash for this amazing goal should have earned him two assists. Chris Kreider was OK but looked a little uncomfortable with Derick Brassard -- who had a forgettable game until his third period garbage goal.
- St. Louis won 80% of his faceoffs. Not bad, right?
- Duclair is making a really strong case to stay up the entire year. He makes something happen every time he's on the ice. His speed drew a Rangers power play, he set up two chances, had one of his own and is more than capable in his own zone. Sometimes he dangles too much for his own good, but when he does pull one off through a defenseman's legs it's intoxicating to watch. He's going to be special. He doesn't look out of place at all.
- Tough game to judge Kevin Hayes, but he looked pretty comfortable, too. Not a bad first showing from him.
- The one thing the Rangers couldn't do against the Leafs they did: take penalties. On both of the power play goals the Leafs players who scored had acres of room. Cody Franson being left all alone for the first goal is confusing. Phil Kessel being left all alone for the second goal is dumbfounding. He's the most dangerous player on the Leafs, how can you forget about him?
- There was a sequence during the second period that gave me some pause. On one of the penalty kills Dominic Moore was sitting in the slot and noticed there was a Leaf uncovered to the side of the net. Moore motioned for McDonagh -- who was behind Moore also in the slot -- to cover him, and then McDonagh motioned for Moore to cover him. This isn't Tanner Glass being confused on the penalty kill, this is two of the Rangers best penalty killers. Maybe it was just one bad sequence (to be fair I didn't see something like that happen again) but it raised my eyebrows.
- Let's start turning the wheel: The Rangers have a lot of problems right now, but they're fixable. More discipline on the ice is a must. The Rangers need to move the puck a little better out of their own zone, as well. Right now they look a little panicked, which is why they've been hemmed in their own zone so much. Quicker breakouts and calmer decisions with the puck would help a lot here. The team also needs to get back to basic hockey. The Rangers are really fast this year, dump and chase the puck into the zone and forecheck like demons when you don't have it. That will ease some of the pressure off the back line.
- The Rangers were missing their number one center, a top six forward and a second pairing defenseman last night. That's not chump change, those are important players who play important roles. You should expect any team to struggle if they're down those kinds of players. (Note: that's still not an excuse for Sunday's second period.)
- I would have loved 13ish points in the 10 games Derek Stepan was out. Now with Dan Boyle out as well (and Mats Zuccarello day to day) I think if the Rangers can tread water and go 5-5 in those games it would be a win. Get out of the woods and then start getting healthy. Better now than in April or May.
- This impacts the power play, too. The man advantage has moved the puck pretty well (although the second power play was atrocious on Sunday) but has yet to convert. St. Louis and Stepniak have run the point at different times and they've looked OK. Duclair moves the puck really well at the half boards, too. Maybe it's time to throw Ryan Malone in front of the net and see what happens?
- Very proud of everyone for being adults about the Rick Nash situation, by the way. Not that I'm any judge or jury or that my pride even matters, but I remember people flipping out about a Mets player leaving a BASEBALL game to be with his wife in the same situation. I don't like baseball, but I highlighted it because there are 162 regular season baseball games. Missing a single game is missing .006% of the season. Anyway, seeing the birth of a child is a once in a lifetime (well, once in the kid's lifetime) event that he should be there for. I wouldn't have cared if he did it during a tie game; but at 6-2 what does it matter?