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Rangers Vs. Avalanche: Yuck

Notes from the Rangers' shootout loss to the Avalanche.

Bruce Bennett

- This has been a strange week for the Rangers. First, they lose to the lowly Maple Leafs, get dominated by the Oilers, blow the doors off the high-flying Penguins and then allow the "we don't need possession" Avalanche to waltz away with the extra point. 1-2-1 in the last four games.

- The compete level the Rangers had against the Penguins? Not there for a full 60 minutes against the Avalanche. The first period was a disaster in every sense of the word -- and if Henrik Lundqvist wasn't Henrik Lundqvist the game might have gotten away at that point -- and the Rangers needed every second of him until they found their feet in the second period.

- I don't want to take anything away from the Avalanche in terms of the weapons they have. They really do have a lot of players who can hurt you at any moment -- as seen by Matt Duchene blowing by John Moore for the first goal despite Moore having perfect positioning. The other side of the coin, however, is the Avalanche are horrible with possession. Patrick Roy doesn't believe in fancy stats and doesn't seem to have any emotions other than angry and perplexed. And that team still found a way to keep the Rangers pinned in their own zone more often than not.

- Positives: Rick Nash (an assist) was a beast. That play where he chugged through two defenders and created a really good shot for himself in the slot? Beautiful. Mats Zuccarello (a beautiful assist on the Dan Girardi goal) looked really good. I loved the game from Derek Stepan -- who scored a pretty two-on-one goal with Nash. Derick Brassard was OK and did hit a post. Chris Kreider was a monster who didn't find the scoresheet.

- And, of course, Kevin Hayes with another goal to extend his three-game point scoring streak. Hayes has gotten better and better with each game and is really starting to impact things when he's on the ice. The biggest difference with Hayes' game right now is that he's actually shooting the puck more, rather than dekeing or trying to make the perfect play.

- On Hayes goal, Matt Hunwick is going to get a lot of credit for the assist, but give offensive dynamo Kevin Klein all the credit for that goal. To have the understanding to pull the puck out of the zone with the delayed penalty to allow the Rangers to reset made that goal. It's such a smart play.

- Speaking of defense: A 75% Dan Boyle with 1.5 hands looked pretty good, no? He instantly made the Rangers defense more dangerous -- not just on the power play -- and had a few chances he probably finishes if he's not a little rusty. One thing I love about him that George pointed out: He doesn't stand in one spot on the point of the power play; he moves to create space for himself without the puck to prepare for when he does get the puck. The last Rangers defenseman to do that at the point was Brian Leetch.

- The Rangers are damn near close to healthy now, but without Ryan McDonagh -- who is such a big part of this team -- it's hard to say they're fully back. Stepan looks as close to game shape as we've seen all year. Boyle is going to get better and better as he keeps playing. And when McDonagh returns the Rangers will have a decision to make with Moore (who got manhandled last night) and Hunwick. I think the Rangers win that game with McDonagh.

- And to that point, the Rangers letting points slip away is obviously bad -- but I'd much rather them grab the loser point with all the injuries and transition to being healthy than lose straight out. Which is what they're doing. So, there's a silver lining.

- The Rangers can't possess the puck in the first period, and for some stretches of the game. When the offense did get the puck in the first they couldn't make anything happen and just seemed to get clogged up in the neutral zone. It's in those moments I wonder if Alain Vigneault knows what he is willingly sitting in the press box every night in Anthony Duclair. Think he would have made a difference last night? I do.

- And now we close out Saturday with an away game against the Penguins. Tough test.