- I believe two things sum up the New York Rangers effort last night. The first is this tweet:
"Wow Buffalo is bad" *squints eyes suspiciously* "When did they start wearing blue uniforms?" *realizes I'm watching the Rangers" "Nooooooo"— Joe Fortunato (@BlueshirtBanter) November 10, 2014
The second is my friend Ant coming home right before the third period started and saying, "so I guess we're having some trouble with the Fighting Pouliot's?"
- Positive outlook: The Rangers were 5-1-2 entering this past weekend's games. That record could have quite easily been 7-1 if the Rangers got the bounces in the overtime or shootout against the Jets or Blues. A pair of stinkers -- especially on a back-to-back -- was bound to happen. The Rangers were tired from traveling to Toronto only to return to New York to play an earlier game against the Oilers.
- Negative outlook: Sure, the Rangers might have been tired, but the Oilers were on the fourth of a five-game road trip. Oh, by the way, the Rangers got thoroughly dominated by the Oilers. Let me repeat that sentence to make sure it sticks. The Rangers got thoroughly dominated BY THE OILERS. Yes, the team was 5-1-2 entering this weekend, but even win one of these games and you might be able to excuse the other. You can't lose both.
- The truth? Probably a little in the middle, leaning towards the negative outlook. I didn't recap the Maple Leafs game because I had some other engagements and only caught some of the game. It didn't matter. This recap can serve for both because -- as Adam in our Blueshirt Banter group chat -- "tonight is exactly the same as Saturday except with Henrik Lundqvist in net rather than Cam Talbot." Yup.
- There were two true positives from Sunday night. Lundqvist was outstanding and Kevin Hayes really looks like he's coming into his own. Hayes did everything you could expect him to from the start and just seems like he's growing into the player the Rangers need him to be before out eyes. Nice to see.
- I'm going to start blaming Alain Vingeault for losses when the lack of a competent fourth line hurts the team. Sunday the Rangers couldn't get anything going from any of their top lines. Last year Vigneault would throw the fourth line out there and let them handle some possession, take defensive zone starts away from the better offensive players and settle things down. This year? Tanner Glass is starting in the offensive zone over 50% of the time (no points, by the way) and other guys need to handle the more defensive minutes. Literally, any of Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg or J.T. Miller would be a major upgrade over Glass. And the more Vigneault contorts himself to keep Glass in the lineup, the worse it gets.
- What's worse is pairing Hayes and Anthony Duclair with Glass -- who drags both of them down being he can't keep possession of the puck and he doesn't have the offensive instincts those two need to flourish. Vigneault finally moved Hayes and Duclair with Carl Hagelin midway through the third, and amazingly (this is sarcasm) that line created all the team's chances from there on out. Unfortunately, it was too little too late and the Rangers rolled over for the embarrassing loss.
- Derek Stepan is going to need a few games to get back into "game shape" but he didn't look awful last night (or against Toronto). Rick Nash was OK Sunday. Martin St. Louis was invisible. Mats Zuccarello passed up a few prime scoring chances. Derick Brassard wasn't very good either. Chris Kreider had a few offensive chances and then produced nothing. That about sums up the offense -- when they even got things going.
- Marc Staal had an awful game, which people are more than happy to jump on. Bad games happen, though. The problem with being down three of your starting six defenseman, is the three NHLers can't have bad games without it being noticed. If the Rangers defense was 100% healthy and Staal has a bad game it probably gets overlooked because it happens. Last night he's in the spotlight because he has to be better. And he had been, until this weekend.
- Like it or not the Rangers -- even injured -- aren't as bad as they were last night. They're just not. The effort wasn't there and neither was the execution. That's a good and a bad thing, but the Rangers need to be better top to bottom. They play the Penguins two of the next three games, so it won't get easier, either.