Rangers Vs. Canadiens: Listless In New York
- When you think about the life of a playoff series, there’s a variety of moments you can pick out as potential momentum swinging opportunities. Obviously the way Game 2 was tied and ended would be one of them. How the Rangers responded in Game 3 was always going to be another one of them. The Rangers response? Not just a 3-1 loss, but a 3-1 loss that was so listless that it took me a few moments to even find Rangers actions shots and a Rangers team that only generated 21 shots on net.
- Through the first two periods, the Rangers had 12 shots on goal. They had no energy, Montreal was dominating on both ends of the ice and Alain Vigneault just ... had no answer. Not even a hint of an answer.
- This isn’t to absolve Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and even J.T. Miller from having a bad night and in some of their cases a bad series. This is about how a coach has Tanner Glass in the lineup for that speed/skill/spark role and while Glass isn’t the problem, he’s playing over skill to get the team to play like that and the Rangers clearly aren’t responding to it. The Canadiens defense isn’t exactly their strong point, and yet New York can’t even find zone possession. That means you need to start adding skill. Pavel Buchnevich has been in the press box for three games so let’s bring him down. While I would agree players other than Glass DESERVE to come out based on effort/production, you have to add skill rather than replace skill for skill. I’d also throw Adam Clendening in to the fray in favor of Kevin Klein/Nick Holden but we all know that’s not going to happen. Because he’s way worse defensively than those two (eye roll emoji).
- These adjustments have to come from the bench. They have to. The Rangers had two chances to bury Game 2 with a power play goal and failed. The Rangers had two chances in Game 3 to open things up with a power play goal and show that they really had forgotten about the ending on Friday, and they failed. The power play looks exactly the same each and every time they go out there and it gets nothing done. Buchnevich is a spectacular distributor and can help move the puck in less expected ways, or (gasp) enter the zone with possession instead of the dump and run. But something has to change.
- I also have a serious issue with the way Vigneault is deploying this lineup. Oscar Lindberg played less than 10 minutes Sunday night, and he was maybe the Rangers second-best forward behind Rick Nash (who didn’t even play 10 minutes through the first two periods, then was leaned on heavily in the third). In a “we’re down three goals and pulled the goalie” demand for offense he had Jesper Fast on the ice and Kevin Klein at the point. When people tell me I’m “taking the easy way out” or “being negative just to be negative” about Vigneault, I just want them to know those feelings sprout from stuff like that.
- Want to know who I feel really bad for? Henrik Lundqvist. This series could be 3-0 with Montreal winning each game by five or six without him. The King was remarkable again, making save after save even when it was clear the Rangers didn’t have any intention of, you know, creating offense.
- And here’s the thing: He KNOWS what he’s up against between the pipes. Look at his reaction when Shea Weber scored the second goal of the game. He had his head on the ice for a few moments just laying there. Not only because he got scored on, but because he knows better than anyone that he simply has to be perfect right now for the Rangers to win a hockey game. And no one is perfect.
- Klein was, predictably, not a great replacement for Holden. The play on the third goal where he turned the puck over, let Alexander Radulov go right by him and then stopped skating? Vigneault would have had the team bus come onto the ice to pick Clendening up if that’d been him.
- The Montreal media members don’t actually care if they bother a coach by asking a tough question, and they’re doing the work for the Rangers beats. Vigneault has sweated his way through a few questions with them, and then sweated his way through an answer about how it’s “too early” to talk about getting Buchnevich into the lineup for this series. Right. Don’t want to make any snap decisions.
- I also love the media, who will make fun of people who want questions asked, just going to town on the Rangers crowd. A) The Rangers gave The Garden literally nothing to cheer about. B) The crowd felt like it was involved in that game all night. They were loud in the first, and then started to rev up when the team was about to kill off Zuccarello’s double-minor. Then the officials decided Nash isn’t allowed to draw penalties and Weber scored. But those moments are destructive to the overall crowd noise. Just seems off that the team’s own media (who tiptoe around a coach) ripping into the fans and the crowd. It annoys the hell out of me.
- Special teams are going to be the death of the Rangers in this series. The penalty kill has been (Lundqvist) alright, but the power play is 0-for in the series. It’s a big deal when you need offense. And if the Habs’ power play is starting to get hot? Look out.
- The Rangers need to forget and move on today just like they did on Saturday. Losing Game 4 would be a major problem, and the Rangers would go from having a 2-0 stranglehold on the series to a 3-1 hole that would seem impossible to get out of. /
Thoughts on this?