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The King Stifles The Kings

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NHL: Los Angeles Kings at New York Rangers Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
  • That’s a perfect game to highlight three things: 1) just how much the defense has left Henrik Lundqvist out to dry this year, 2) that Lundqvist is slowly working himself back into form, and 3) that anyone complaining about Lundqvist’s demise hit the panic button way too soon (shocking, I know). The Rangers were thoroughly dominated last night, the defense was mostly nonexistent and the offense showed up, like, five times (and scored three of them).
  • Do not mistake this for being a good game from the Rangers in any capacity outside of the net. The Rangers were dominated in shots and possession, were routinely hemmed into their own zone and needed Lundqvist to bail them out time and time again. The Kings led in shot attempts 65-29 and expected goals 2.99 to 1.20. Those numbers are jarring, and the fact that Lundqvist managed to only allow a single goal until the 59th minute of the game is almost a miracle.
  • And boy was he called on often. In all he made 36 saves on 38 shots with (my guess) about 15 of them being high danger. The Rangers collapsed around the crease in pure panic often and forced Lundqvist to make blind or near-blind saves. Hats off to Lundqvist — who in some circles was either bailed out by his defense (LOL), or played OK (LOL) or both. Here’s some jokes I thought were funny (because I wrote them):
  • Of all the defense pairings I thought the Adam Clendneing Brady Skjei pairing was OK (although Alain Vigneault disagreed, since they got very little ice time). Ryan McDonagh rotated with Dan Girardi, Nick Holden and Kevin Klein. McDonagh didn’t have the best of games, Girardi had a solid game (for him -- but it did feature a gorgeous outlet pass on the Matt Puempel goal) and Klein had a good fight but that was about it.
  • Part of the issue with this defense is there’s so much uncertainty. McDonagh hasn’t had the best month, and that totally increases the volatility of relying on everyone else. Clendening and Skjei can at least move the puck up the ice well, but there are defensive concerns there. On the other side Klein and Girardi aren’t even able to move the puck up the ice more often than not, and the defensive concerns there are at the very least the same (if not worse because of their roles). McDonagh has to be McDonagh all the time, and for the most part this past month and change he hasn’t been.
  • Last night was another good example for why the Rangers don’t need an enforcer, by the way. The Kings took liberties, threw their weight around, took cheap shots and the Rangers got literally no help from the refs (who might not have even attended the game). Klein got into a fight to protects Mats Zuccarello and the Rangers threw their weight around when they could -- which wasn’t often. They also used their speed (sometimes) and won the game. You don’t need a face puncher to retaliate because guess what? That face punched would be playing for either Puempel or Brandon Pirri -- both of which scored goals in a one-goal game. Speed and skill wear a team down more than grit and toughness. Anyone who tells you toughness adds a different dimension (from the standpoint of a possession black hole who is mostly good at just fighting) has missed the point so badly you couldn’t get through to them if you wanted to.
  • Zuccarello scored a pretty goal (off a brilliant feed from J.T. Miller — who had to bat the puck down to make the play) so now apparently all of his assists count again.
  • Both Pirri and Puempel are fighting for their lineup lives right now, and both scored much-needed goals. It will be interesting to see where things go when Jesper Fast comes back into the picture.
  • Thoughts?