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Rangers Vs. Sabres: Alarm Clock Ringing

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NHL: New York Rangers at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
  • Let’s just get this out of the way at the top. That might be the worst game I’ve seen Henrik Lundqvist play in a very long time. He overshot all his angles, had little control of his rebounds and let in a goal from the red line 18 seconds into the game. No excuses Thursday night: Lundqvist was downright awful.
  • Now, Lundqvist being really bad helped prove a point I’ve been making for weeks: When the Rangers offense isn’t carrying the play the defense gets horribly exposed. Lundqvist’s poor game aside, imagine what even an average goalie would be doing with a defense like this these past two years. The Rangers gave up 64 shot attempts against and generated just 35. Against Buffalo. As in the Sabres. The Rangers’ defense was routinely dominated to the puck, were pushed all over the ice around the net and couldn’t keep up with Buffalo. The Dan Girardi - Ryan McDonagh pairing might have had its worst game in a really long time, with Girardi diving to a career-worst possession game and bringing McDonagh with him.
  • Speaking of: Girardi was so bad I almost don’t want to talk about it. At this point, I’m not sure what else can be said. He was a -28 in even strength corsi and a -33 in all situations. He gets a full pass on the first of the three goals he was on the ice for (the red line goal) but on the game-tying goal he slid all the way across the ice on a mini two-on-one which forced Hank to play both the shot and the pass and on the game-winning goal he was victimized three times trying to get the puck out of the zone. Adam Clendening — who wasn’t very good, either, and was in the box for the game-tying goal — will most likely see his head chopped off for this because that’s the way Vigneault handles his business.
  • After the game Larry Brooks actually grilled Vigneault about whether or not he sees a trend in the way other teams are attacking the Rangers and keeping them in their own zone. Vigneault sidesteps the question. Brooks, to his credit, follows up and asks Vigneault “so you don’t see a trend” and Vigneault sort of says that he’s seen something in parts of the past few games and then sidesteps it again. Watch it below.

There’s a serious fundamental issue with this response. Even if Vigneault is simply ignoring the question publicly, his actions line up with the way he coaches this team/answered that question. (Listen to our podcast from this week for some chatter on that.) Yes, Clendening got in the lineup against Buffalo, but he’s not going to stick. Girardi remains on the top pair even though he was getting roasted by the Sabres speed he was on the ice with the game on the line. He doesn’t adjust. He hasn’t adjusted, and he either A) doesn’t think it’s a big enough problem to deviate from the veterans he trusts or, B) is ignorant to the problems. I don’t know which is worse. I do know we watched this movie last year and we all know how it ends.

  • All of that doesn’t take away how bad almost everyone was last night. Brandon Pirri has an 18% corsi and was a -14 in shots. Michael Grabner, Rick Nash and J.T. Miller were right behind him. Those are a lot of big names who couldn’t do anything with the puck most of the night. You’re not going to win many games when your top pairing on defense, your goalie and your top players on offense aren’t doing anything positive. Pretty simple.
  • Nick Holden — in his continuing quest to be the solid defender the Rangers needed — was the team’s only positive possession player. Although he did get victimized on a goal, but, uh, positives.
  • Overall the entire night was a disaster. The Rangers are not moving in the right direction, and it doesn’t appear they’re going to start, either. Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich will help a lot, but only to mask the bigger problems that this defense is creating. Lundqvist has totally mopped up a lot of these problems, and some of his drop in numbers (still good numbers, might I add) is because of this cluster defense in front of him. But we can ignore that and blame everything on him, I guess.

Thoughts?