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Rangers vs. Canucks: Blueshirts Still Haven’t Found What They Are Looking For

New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images
  • The Rangers dropped their fourth game in a row with a 3-2 loss to the Canucks on Sunday.
  • Despite Vancouver being in the second game of a back-to-back, they were fresher and more assertive team for most of the game. New York looked better in the third period, but as I wrote in my recap it isn’t something to put too much stock in given the surrounding circumstances.
  • Vancouver had a two-goal lead, and just needed to get through the final 20 in the second game of a back-to-back. So while the Rangers certainly pressed the play and were able to score a goal; they are unlikely to have the same luck against a team that was well rested.
  • The game was one chock full of accountability moments in which head coach David Quinn scrambled the lines, and sat players for certain stretches of the game.
  • Pavel Buchnevich — despite scoring a power-play goal in a loss vs. the Washington Capitals — was bumped off the top unit, and spent time on the third and fourth line.
  • Buchnevich had a decent game, and was very noticeable during the third period.
  • On the season to date Buchnevich has a goal and three assists for four points, and this is a very important season for him. Being assertive and going to the net is certainly going to get him on Quinn’s good side, and hopefully he is given a consistent set of linemates,
  • Brady Skjei was benched during the second period; Quinn said “We’re looking for more out of him. He’s got to play better. He’s got to be more consistent.”
  • Marc Staal — who had another rough game (42.86 CF%, -3.41 CF% Rel) and helped gift the Canucks their second goal of the game — skated 15:13 5v5/18:03 in all situations.
  • This is not to say that the Rangers are going to get more out of Staal by benching him, as he is what he is at this point as a player. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be held accountable for his poor play.
  • At the very least Staal should be playing 15 to 16 minutes a night in a sheltered third-pairing role, because he isn’t doing the team any favors. The Rangers don’t have many other options at this point, but if this trend continues it would make sense to give Yegor Rykov a look at the NHL level, or Ryan Lindgren another shot.
  • In an ideal world, the team could have mitigated Staal’s usage by scratching him certain games when the schedule got tighter. But it appears the team had no interest in doing so, and that is something that is backed up by not tendering a qualifying offer to Fredrik Claesson, and failing to sign a depth defender.
  • It really is a puzzling move in hindsight, as the team went to great lengths to add veteran forwards bodies to the point that Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov have started the season in Hartford. The Rangers did give Joe Morrow a chance during the preseason, but he ultimately wasn’t signed.
  • Following the Rangers’ loss to the Capitals, David Quinn had some comments regarding Kaapo Kakko that drew some criticism.
  • Quinn said: “There’s just so many things at this level that an 18-year-old’s never been asked to do, and he’s never even thought about doing it. I’ve said this a lot. It’s almost unfair to a kid like him who gets here because the game he’s been playing to this point isn’t going to happen from here on in. And when you have that talent, he’s going to learn because he wants to learn and he’s committed to being a great player. There’s absolutely zero reservations what we have with him. It’s just going to be a process and take some time.”
  • Quinn followed up on those comments prior to the loss vs. Vancouver and said: “The only way guys measure themselves is by points. One of the things that every 18-year-old has to do — and he’s no different — he’s got to understand that there are responsibilities in all three zones. Scoring goals is just as important as preventing them. He wants to learn. He’s a guy that’s always looking for help and looking to be better, and we’re confident he will.”
  • Against the Canucks, Kakko skated 9:52 at 5v5 and finished with a CF% or 52.17, and a CF% Rel of 9.15 which was fifth on the Rangers per Natural Stat Trick. He also had an xGF% of 52.88. During the game he also got some time on the No. 1 power-play unit, and was active on the puck. Here’s one particular shift in the third which stood out.
  • Here Kakko is able to win some battles along the boards, cycle the puck around, and get himself to the front of the net to try and screen the goalie or tip the puck in. There were a couple of moments like this during the game, and it was good to see.
  • Regarding Quinn’s comments, I think it is fair to have some concern based on how the season has gone thus far, and how minutes have been given out in what is supposed to be a season of development.
  • There was no room in the top nine for Chytil and Kravtsov, but the team hasn’t seen an issue with Lias Andersson skating on the fourth line while Ryan Strome and Brett Howden have been given a chance as the second-line center, even though neither has looked particularly good there,
  • It just feels like what the team has said and done has been a bit contradictory, so fans are nervous about the skill being coached out of Kakko. Personally I don’t think that will happen, because Kakko’s too good of a prospect to let that happen.
  • Right now he’s an 18-year-old getting his feet wet at the NHL level, and he’s going to try and do what is asked of him. But as the season goes on, his instincts will kick in, and he will play like the player who impressed enough scouts that he put himself into the conversation of being a No. 1 overall pick.
  • That said, I certainly can say that Kakko skating with Howden and Lemieux isn’t the best way to develop him, and I’d be interested to see if his performance today will play a role on how the lines are drawn up for Tuesday vs. the Arizona Coyotes.
  • But again, it has just been six games, and there’s still a lot of time left for Kakko to acquaint himself and start producing the way he did in Finland. Ultimately I agree with what Shayna said on Saturday.
  • So far so good for the newcomers, as Artemiy Panarin and Jacob Trouba both continue to produce. Panarin tallied his fourth goal and sixth point of the season, and Trouba picked up his fifth assist and sixth point of the season.
New York Islanders v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  • You can also add Adam Fox to that list, as he’s been very solid thus far even though he’s still looking for his first NHL point.
  • Thus far he leads the Rangers in CF% with of 53.85, his xGF% of 52 is third among skaters, is second with a SCF% of 52.24, and first with a HDCF% of 63.64 per Natural Stat Trick. The offensive will eventually come, and when it does it will certainly give a boost to the Rangers’ back end which is currently being carried offensively by Trouba.
  • Trouba has also impressed with an ability to get shots off from the back end, and that was on full display on Jesper Fast’s tip goal.
  • Speaking of Fast, as of today he’s tied with Buchnevich with four points. Both trail Trouba and Panarin who have six points, and Mika Zibanejad who leads the team with 11 points in six games.
  • Fast is unlikely to keep up 0.66 P/GP production all season, but he’s certainly adding stock to his value ahead of becoming a free agent on July 1.
  • There’s only so many times you can say, ‘damn, Artemiy Panarin is good,’ but in many ways it is still sinking in. He does a lot of little things right during the games, and he’s a really aggressive player who forces the issue. His goal today was another example of him being in the right spot and shooting the puck decisively, and that’s something the Rangers have missed in recent years.
  • The Rangers are back at it tomorrow night vs. Phil Kessel and the Coyotes, and the team will look to prevent the losing streak from extending to five games in a row.