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Rangers Vs. Flames: All That Work For Nothing

NHL: Calgary Flames at New York Rangers Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
  • Sometimes it’s just not your night. Sure, sometimes it happens against a backup goalie (again), but sometimes it’s just not there. The Rangers thoroughly dominated this game in every way but the scoreboard. 45-26 in shots, 72-48 in attempts, 4.29-2.32 in expected goals, and a third period where they really pulled away from Calgary ... well, not with goals. Calgary scored four goals, all of which came on high danger scoring chances. Henrik Lundqvist did what he could, but this is the game we were all expecting in the beginning of the year: Good offense, great goaltending, bad defense.
  • The Rangers created chances across all lines, which was nice. For as awful as Pavel Buchnevich was against Washington, I thought he was outstanding Sunday. He led all players in all situation possession, was second on the Rangers in 5v5 possession, and created a fair amount of offense. He got a stern talking to from David Quinn in the first, then apparently did whatever he was supposed to do moving on and Quinn was there supporting him in the next period. I’ve seen a lot of that from the bench for a lot of players, and I’ve loved it every time.
  • To the point on possession: Not a single Ranger was below 51% in possession at evens last night. Not one. That’s incredible.
  • The worst (top nine) line of the night was the Kreider - Zibanejad - Fast line, and they were good! Zibanejad had a really quiet night until his power play snipe, although he and Kreider had a few really good moments together in the third. Fast continues to work wherever he’s plugged in, and has been vital for that group with his work in the corners. He doesn’t have the offensive touch to really finish their chances, but he’s done enough creation that he works there.
  • Filip Chytil played in his eighth game, two away from a non-slide status of his ELC. This is going to get more play as we come up on the Rangers’ next matchup against Florida (which would be his ninth and final game), but I’m not sure the financial benefits of a team with nothing but space makes sense over him not being with the big club, where he’s clearly learning and growing. He was one of the Rangers’ best forwards last night, just without the finish. Once he finds that first goal, I think they’re going to come flooding in.
  • Neal Pionk had another solid game, playing 25 minutes, getting a power play assist, and had a few of those glorious “I’m driving this to net no matter what” moments as well. His little twirl into the slot in the third was some of that good stuff we’ve been waiting to see. Only four Rangers had a higher expected goals for when they were on the ice. No one had a higher expected goals against, though. As always with Pionk so far — and as expected for a young kid — there’s two sides to this coin. Still, there’s no reason for him to not be in the lineup every night.
  • Not the best night from Brendan Smith. Adam McQuaid had a few really bad moments, but was otherwise fine. Brady Skjei was up and down. Marc Staal, aside from getting worked top to bottom on the second goal, was somehow one of the better possession players on the evening.
  • I don’t understand Cody McLeod being the Plan B for players sitting. I don’t think he’s even an effective enforcer, which is already a position no hockey team needs. That said, in his short roles this year he’s been fine. Sure, Ryan Spooner probably would have had a better shot finishing that third-period scramble to make it a 3-2 game, but no real complaints about McLeod’s work at all.
  • I maintain that Vinni Lettieri is playing for his life here with Matt Beleskey almost back. Not sure what’s going to happen there.
  • Lundqvist was really, really good despite what the Facebook heroes might tell you. Not much he could have done about any of the goals, really.
  • Skjei’s little “I’m going to defend this clear hit” idiocy that led to the fourth goal is bad toughness. The hit on Mats Zuccarello was hard, yes, but it was clean and within striking distance of the puck. There’s no reason for Skjei to react like that and it hurt the team. Granted, down 3-1 with two minutes left it doesn’t change much, but it’s just stupid. Unless it was some plan of his to try and fire the room up for Florida.