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Rangers vs. Islanders: This is fine (seriously)

New York Rangers v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  • For years we wasted a metric ton of digital ink on this site explaining why winning wasn’t always the most important factor in a game. How the Rangers won the game, the context of how they played within that game, probably added more clarity in trying to forecast the sustainability for continued success. Getting out-chanced, out-shot, out-played but winning because Henrik Lundqvist was a god among men was not a long-term road that would work for the Rangers. Despite the crying and whining that we were being too negative, it never did work.
  • So it’s ironic that this has been flipped on its head in a way. Yes the Rangers are losing, yes the power play is struggling, yes the Rangers aren’t scoring, but it’s OK. For the first time in forever that part of what’s happening isn’t sustainable. The Rangers are playing great hockey, they doubled up the Islanders in high-danger scoring chances and xGF last night. Did they score? No. Did they lose? Yes. Is it possible the Rangers continue to approach 90 shots every two games and score all of two goals? No. If the Rangers keep playing the way they’re playing they will start winning games. There’s no magic fix. The law of averages rules all, eventually those shots — like the one where Adam Fox hit the post — will go in. Next game Kakko’s brilliant rush won’t be stopped by a goalie who has no idea where the puck is. That Zibanejad shot from the office won’t miss the net by a fraction of an inch. And the Rangers will be winning, and it will be sustainable.
  • If you want to have concerns about the sudden lack of power play explosiveness I’ll forgive that. The power play has looked fine, but not brilliant as it did the first three games. Teams are shutting off the pipelines to Zibanejad for that lethal one-timer and the Rangers don’t seem to have much of an answer for it. Much like the shift in baseball, the likely route of success is probably allowing the opposition to take away Zibanejad and just succeeding on the 4-on-3 that’s left on the ice while he’s being shadowed. Panarin has plenty of tools to work with without Zibanejad, and if Chris Kreider can tap back into his tipping magic that might do all the work in opening lanes back up for Zibanejad.
  • For a brief moment the Rangers ran a rotation on the power play, shifting Zibanejad up to the point and moving Fox along the half-boards, trying to get Zibanejad space to shoot. I don’t think that makes a ton of sense — the shot is lethal because of how precise he can be in letting it go from in close before the goalie can cross the crease — but at least it was an adjustment of some sort.
  • But for the most part what’s working is working. I only really have serious questions about A) the players Gallant chooses to be in his lineup on a given night (Libor Hajek come on down), and B) the players Gallant chose to play significant ice time down two with less than six minutes left (fourth line, and once again Mr. Hajek come on down). It, shockingly, did not work.
  • Can the Hajek experiment end, by the way? I know the organization is embarrassed with the return of the Ryan McDonagh/J.T. Miller trade that will likely go down as one of the worst trades the team has made since the turn of the century, but forcing Hajek into the lineup and roster does nothing but make it worse. His “I’m going to follow this guy without the puck into the corner and vacate the slot in the exact spot where the Islanders are going to score their game-winning goal” was something you might not do if you were iced in a casual beer league game. Him routinely getting burned and having to be bailed out by his backup goalie when the Rangers are trailing and looking for momentum doesn’t help either. Just stop it. Cut your losses and go. And especially stop doing it at the expense of an actually good young defenseman who can be cost controlled and add that defensive scoring depth great teams always seem to have.
  • Speaking of Mr. Halak, I thought he was much better last night.
  • I also thought Gauthier did enough to stay in the lineup. His speed helps create openings and chances, he drew power plays, and he was constantly one of the most noticeable forwards on the ice. When Chytil and Kravtsov come back maybe sit Reaves?
  • Kakko wore his big-boy pants last night, my word. The deke through the entirety of Long Island was a thing of beauty and it’s a damn shame he didn’t finish it.
  • I thought Lafreniere looked good as well. Not great, but fine.
  • Trocheck continues to impress me every time he’s on the ice. What a player the Rangers have in him.
  • Anyway, move on, relax. Or yell in the comments. Whatever makes you feel better.