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Rangers Vs. Maple Leafs: Reality Check City

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Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Rangers
  • After the Rangers had their bye week in January they came out of the gate stumbling, getting embarrassed in a 7-2 loss to the Islanders. The very next day, they got smoked by the Penguins 5-2. Alain Vigneault made the same excuses after those two games we’ve heard over and over again. He expected more, the Rangers have to be better, they’re not playing good enough, blah blah blah. Thursday night marked the Rangers’ first game back after the All-Star break, and once again, they were embarrassed in a 4-0 could-have-be-so-much-worse loss to Toronto. Once again, after the game, Vigneault said this:

Vigneault is so good at deflecting blame it’s almost an art at this point. You almost have to respect it, actually. With the team struggling the way they are, key players aren’t playing well, lineup decisions are backfiring, and the team is getting blown out of games where they’ve had a week to prepare? Yeah, I feel like most coaches would have at least included themselves in the picture.

  • I’ve already got “what is he supposed to say” on Twitter. So here’s what he should say: We weren’t good enough tonight, and coming off a week break we might have a little rust, sure, but we weren’t prepared and that’s on me. Every person on this team has to be better from the top down, and I’m at the top.” Simple an easy. He doesn’t have to say “well I should just be fired” but he’s really good at sidestepping any criticism of himself.
  • This game should serve as another reminder that this team is not properly built. The Rangers are at a crossroads here, and Jeff Gorton has the monumental task of picking a road to go down. The right move can set the Rangers up for years to come. The wrong move can plunge them into the dark ages.
  • As if the game wasn’t bad enough, Pavel Buchnevich was hurt and missed most of the game. Not sure how bad it is (the Rangers are awful with injury updates) but this is a bad one.
  • I think this from Larry Brooks speaks volumes about where the Rangers are as an organization right now:

Just as Cody McLeod stepped into his role as designated enforcer — um, energy guy — for the Rangers, Matt Martin apparently has stepped off his for Toronto, a healthy scratch for the fourth straight time in his team’s walkover 4-0 victory over the Blueshirts on Broadway.

The Maple Leafs, you see, get their energy from prodigies named Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner, from speed throughout the lineup and from fourth-line skill players.

  • Who was good last night? Ondrej Pavelec was solid. Cody McLeod did things he was supposed to (led both teams with eight hits) — even if that’s not good for the team’s standpoint. Jesper Fast was OK.
  • By Miika’s count, the Rangers gave up 30+ shots for the 26th game in their past 30. That’s an alarming show on defense, even with the injuries. The Rangers gave up 56 shot attempts AT EVEN STRENGTH ONLY on Thursday. Think about that. This is not a good hockey team.
  • Which brings me to my next question: Did Henrik Lundqvist see better, more competent defense in the 3-on-3 for the All-Star game or last night? I think the All-Star game.
  • I really don’t know what else to say here. The Rangers aren’t a good hockey team right now, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Might as well rev up the trade machine.
  • Thoughts?