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Rangers Vs. Sabres:Checks Not Accepted

Notes from the Rangers loss to the Sabres.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

- I wanted the Rangers to grab six of the six points available in this three-game stretch against non-playoff teams they're in right now. At worst I figured the Rangers would snag four. To lose two games against two non-playoff teams where they were only able to put together 20 minutes of solid hockey in each game in unacceptable. The fact that they still don't have a check next to their game is a big reason why I'm questioning this team's effort/battle level (something I never do) for the first time. If they can't get up to clinch a playoff berth then that doesn't bode well for the future.

- Not that these games are really all that important. The Rangers are going to make the playoffs unless they do a remarkable choke job at the end of the year -- and even if they do they would still need to see Detroit win out to bump them from contention.

- With that being said: Alain VIgneault cited a lack of preparation after the loss to Carolina. So what's the excuse now against Buffalo? More of the same. Playoff teams are going to be so much tougher opponents than the Hurricanes and Sabres. It's not a good look for this all in team.

- A bright spot? Vigneault didn't play the fourth line more than a few shifts in the final 25 minutes. Counterpoint: Maybe if Oscar Lindberg/Jesper Fast was down there instead of Tanner Glass he could actually roll four lines.

- Another bright spot? Dan Girardi looked solid since he's been removed from the top four and sheltered on the third pairing. This is something that should have happened a long time ago, but better late than never.

- Counterpoint: When Girardi and Marc Staal aren't the guys who are getting roasted and making mistakes then your top four need to be perfect. This is the second game in a row Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein have gotten their teeth kicked in as the top pairing. They've been good together this year, but they have to be relatively perfect if the Rangers want to handle the eventual mistakes coming from Girardi and Staal.

- Like I said after the Hurricanes loss, this is what the playoffs are going to look like. The Rangers offense and goaltending trying to bail out the defense. The game might have been 6-3 in the third period without Antti Raanta's heroics. Those breakdowns are a big part of why you should be afraid of a team that boats a true top-nine of scoring. There's nowhere to hide.

- The 5-on-3 was run about as bad as you can. On a two-man advantage the point men can;'t be sitting at the blue line, it's too far away from the net. The highest guys should be a few feet higher than the circle, and the other guys should be right around the net. Stretch the defenseman as needed, but the Rangers very simply made it easy for Buffalo. They took three shots and all of them were far-range, easy-to-see shots. Not good.

- J.T. Miller has been one of the biggest brights spots this year as a whole.

- Chris Kreider is turning back into monster Kreider. That's a good thing.

- Kevin Hayes -- who has been good this year, despite those media-driven narratives -- scored a goal, so he's not coming out for Lindberg for another game.

- The power play failure should get some attention for being a big part of the game, but it's the defense that needs to be lambasted for that loss. Woof.