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Rangers Vs. Senators: Really?

NHL: New York Rangers at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
  • First thing’s first. Garden of Dreams might be the greatest charity event in hockey. It is, without a doubt, one of the best things you can donate to in the area. The Rangers (and all of MSG) do a wonderful job garnering donations, but also helping change lives. It’s sort of like Adam Graves the man in charity form. Last night was the Garden of Dreams Fundraiser event. You even had Vally answering the phones!
  • It was the final day of October when the Rangers played a listless 40 minutes against Las Vegas, the day after the New York Post reported Alain Vigneault’s pink slip would be under the door if the team lost. The Rangers didn’t, putting together a stunning third period rally to win the game and save (or at least extend) their coach’s life. Now, turn back to yesterday. Ottawa had won a single game in their last 13, people’s jobs were reportedly on the line, and, more alarmingly, there’s rumors things are so bad the Senators might be looking at asking Erik Karlsson for his no-trade list. That team just neutralized the Rangers for most of the game, and walked away with their second win in their last 14 games. And listen, bad games happen. Every team has stinkers regardless of how good they are, but the Rangers really aren’t all that different from the team that stumbled out of the game to a potentially deadly record in October. And this game, on the heels of the most embarrassing performance of the season (well, until Wednesday) against Dallas? It’s not a good look.
  • There’s another caveat here that needs to be mentioned as well, which is the lack of Mika Zibanejad. Any team down their top center (especially the Rangers -- who are working on flimsy center depth to begin with) is going to struggle. The good news here is that this should prove to all the “HE SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN A SHOW ME CONTRACT” people that Zibanejad is, in fact, a number one center. A longer story is coming on this soon, but Zibanejad’s presence is really missed on that KBZ line (obviously). David Desharnais is not doing Chris Kreider or Pavel Buchnevich any favors in the fancy stat department. Not sure why Kevin Hayes doesn’t get a look there, to be honest, but at this point it is what it is.
  • The Rangers are also running into an issue where their power play simply isn’t lifting them off the floor anymore. When the Rangers “came alive” after that Vegas game it was because their power play was converting at 42% and was keeping their poor play away from the scoreboard. Without that jolt (and you’d have to think losing Zibanejad hurts here, too) the Rangers have been far less lethal.
  • The neutral zone clogging continues to give the Rangers fits, too. Dallas did it to a lesser extent, but Ottawa lives and dies by their quicksand in the middle of the ice, and the Rangers haven’t been able to break through it. For a team that focuses on speed and transition the way the Rangers do, you’d think they’d figure it out, but they haven’t. And adjustments on the matter haven’t exactly made all that much of a difference.
  • There’s a bigger, more threatening issue here too: The lack of the “normal” Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh has had a lackluster season at best, and that might be being kind to him. There have been games where he’s been the dominant monster we’ve seen through his career, but far more often we’re seeing either a mostly invisible or outright porous defender. McDonagh is a lot like the ignition of a car. You need other parts for things to work, but he’s the guy that makes the entire thing run. The top four was always going to have their issues but without the ignition of McDonagh it’s been a struggle. And the Rangers haven’t been able to overcome that struggle.
  • Speaking of defensive issues: Twitter/social media had no issues igniting a fire under Shattenkirk for his breakout pass attempt turned goal against, but I really don’t have a problem with those plays (so long as they’re not happening too often). You have to take risks to make thing happen. Again, it was a turnover that he has to own, but let’s not act like he’s handing the puck to the other team on a platter because he can’t handle it.
  • On the Senators’ game-winning goal (just eight seconds into the third, mind you) it was a classic case of the “two men behind” illness that’s plagued the Rangers under the Vigneault era. On the play Tom Pyatt is skating behind the net with Shattenkirk trailing him. Skjei goes to cut him off and also skates behind the net, rather than taking the slot. Boom, pass through and a goal. If you’re going to double up behind the net you have to stop the pass, but more importantly, the guy with the puck can’t score if he’s behind the net. There’s no need to bring two men to the puck there.
  • When the Rangers did produce constant offense, Craig Andersson was there. The Rangers did have a small edge in expected goals for and in possession, but Ottawa had control of the game until they shelled midway through the third to protect their lead.
  • That pass from Mats Zuccarello on the Rangers first goal is exactly why it’s so hard to complain when he tries those once-in-a-lifetime passes that don’t work. Because when they do work, my word. What a pass that was.
  • Michael Grabner also continues his tear through my wall of “there’s no way he can shoot this high for a second season.” He’s got 15 goals now, on pace for 40 this year, and is once again converting a 22.7 S% (career is 13.1%). It won’t last. It can’t. But hopefully it lasts another year or so. Especially on that contract.
  • This should make us feel a little better, at least.