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Rangers Vs. Jets: Laine Does What He Does, While The Rangers Do What They Do

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NHL: Winnipeg Jets at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
  • The past week or so, there’s been a shocking number of Rangers fans who looked at the three-game sweep of Western Canada and thought some variation of “wow the Rangers might make the playoffs,” or worse, “maybe this was the kick in the butt they needed to start competing.” The trade deadline might have been an enormous week for the Rangers, shifting the landscape of the organization for years to come, but it did not change what they are this year: Simply not good enough. I suppose if you want to argue they were the better team in Edmonton, you could, but they needed twin 50-save performances from Henrik Lundqvist to get by Vancouver and Calgary, and Alexandar Georgiev had to be great against the Oilers, too. It’s all relative.
  • So when the Jets strolled into MSG, manhandled the Rangers for 40ish minutes (they took their foot off the gas in the third) and won 3-0 on the back of a Patrik Laine hat trick, some fans nodded knowingly while others wondered aloud what happened. Again: The Rangers are simply not good enough.
  • There’s four previously AHL regulars on the blue line, Cody McLoed prowls the fourth line, Paul Carey and Peter Holland are playing most every night, and to top things off; Mika Zibanejad missed last night with the flu — pushing David Desharnais up to the top line. The Rangers have a mix of veterans who are trying to prove they can stick in the NHL, kids who are doing the same, and players playing for their next contract. This isn’t a compete issue, gang, it’s a skill issue, and it’s not getting any better.
  • Am I not talking about the game enough? I wasn’t planning on going into major details, because really the big picture is what’s important here, but I will sprinkle some game notes in. Game note 1: It was not Lundqvist’s fault.
  • Game note 2: I’d love to know how the first Laine goal isn’t interference, with a Jet literally setting a moving pick on the Rangers who was going to cover him.
  • From the “we need the best pick possible” department, this was a much needed loss. As things stand right now, the Rangers are 24th in the league with 66 points. Detroit is three points worse with a game in hand at 25th, and Montreal and Edmonton have 61 and 60 points respectively also with games in hand. It’s probably going to take a miracle to fall into the top-3 naturally, thanks to the bottom three being so far behind (Arizona — 51 points, Buffalo — 53 points, and Ottawa — 56 points) but the Rangers could realistically find themselves in the realm of a top-five pick. There is top-flight talent through the first seven or eight names on the board, and the Rangers really need to assure they can get themselves there.
  • All that said: It creates a toxic environment when a team intentionally starts trying to lose. The Rangers have gone about this the right way — removing key assets for the re-build — and the other shoe is going to drop; because like I said before, the Rangers just aren’t good enough.
  • The way you do this without creating that environment though, is play the kids more. Take a harder look at what you might have next year rather than continuing to play his “best” players now. Game note 3: Alain Vigneault did a good job on this on defense, with Marc Staal and Rob O’Gara trailing everyone else in ice time on defense. That’s smart coaching. At forward he played Pavel Buchnevich less than everyone not on the fourth line, and rode Desharnais to as much time as Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov. Yeah, bad coaching.
  • Game note 4: I’ve never seen Mats Zuccarello miss a chance like the one he missed in the first. Then he did it again in the second.
  • Of the Rangers’ next 11 games, 10 of them are against teams in the playoffs or with a realistic shot of making the playoffs. That’s a good thing for the whole “best pick possible” stuff, and is also a chance for Vigneault to see which of his kids can step up against better talent.
  • There’s a podcast tonight, y’all, so make sure you’re there.