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Rangers Vs. Penguins: Where’s the beef?

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
  • Another back-to-back set — coming off an emotional overtime victory against Buffalo the night before. Your backup goalie is playing. Pittsburgh is playing for their playoff lives. Yadda, yadda, yadda. The excuses exist — seemingly always — but there’s not much I can say to dissuade you from being concerned the Rangers have won a single (yes, 1) game in regulation in their past 12.
  • Is it a good sign, in a way, the Rangers are fighting through their issues and at the very least gaining the loser point? Yes, unquestionably. The only team within the division that can really even make this a race is Pittsburgh, and part of that is because of how many times the two teams play against each other down the stretch. The Rangers have two more games against Pittsburgh this week (both home) and if the Penguins manage to win both in regulation things get a hell of a lot tighter for the Rangers.
  • It’s hard to really understate just how dysfunctional the offense has been. Part of it — and maybe I’m trying to convince myself of this — has to be the fact that they’ve brought in two new big-name forwards who need the puck and it’s thrown whatever chemistry the Rangers’ forward had into flux. That’s fine in a vacuum, and part of this stretch should be them getting more comfortable with each other, but it’s still rather worrying.
  • The Rangers do not have the speed they used to, and these run and gun moments in games usually leave the Rangers at the mercy of Igor Shesterkin’s book of magic — which has thankfully been casting of late. And I can live with the Rangers giving up goals or being on their heels a bit more, but I can’t understand the lack of offense.
  • Last night was no different. The Rangers did themselves no favors by making a seemingly permanent reservation in the penalty box in the first period, culminating with Pittsburgh scoring their first goal on a 5-on-3. When the Rangers did get their chances on the power play they couldn’t convert.
  • The most efficient offensive force last night was the fourth line, led by Jimmy Vesey. Vesey was a monster up and down the ice, and his little slip pass into the slot for Barclay Goodrow’s goal was a thing of beauty. That line made contributions throughout the night, and Gallant is — correctly — riding them hard. But needing them to be the oil of the motor isn’t really sustainable.
  • I really like the idea of the Lafreniere — Chytil — Kane line, mostly being Lafreniere and Chytil aren’t deferring to Kane in all circumstances like Panarin was. They created some magic in the second period, and had their looks. I wouldn’t mind them getting a more extended stay together to see what comes of things as they get more comfortable.
  • The Rangers managed to steal the point thanks to a quick break with Vincent Trocheck and Chris Kreider. Trocheck — who quietly has 19 goals and 31 assists on the year — fed Kreider who ripped home his 28th.
  • I say this with no statistical evidence, and simply from an eye test perspective, but my God does it appear Adam Fox missed Ryan Lindgren. I wonder if this stretch without him is making Drury re-image how he’s going to get around his cap crunch. (Speculation on my part, Lindgren and Goodrow are the “easiest” contracts to shift to make room this summer.)
  • Since the Rangers’ west coast swing in the middle of February the team has scored more than three goals just four times. For a team that has the offensive firepower to “hang with anyone” (my words) that’s not good.
  • And I know, Kane hasn’t been here all that long. Vladimir Tarasenko is finding his game. The Rangers did have a 20-day stretch where they were playing shorthanded, and even now are still missing Ryan Lindgren. There’s reasons why all of this might be happening — but I still think it’s more than fair to be concerned.
  • I have maintained the Penguins as an organization are some of the biggest babies in the NHL. It is incredible how much complaining they do considering how dirty they are as a team year in and year out. It is almost inconceivable, however, how much their media does the same. Jacob Trouba is all they talk about. The hit on Crosby in the playoffs last year — which was clean — is brought up again, and again, and again. Trouba rinsed Alex Nylander with a perfectly clean open-ice hit and you’d have thought the world ended. To be fair, Penguins’ fans are only used to seeing their team hitting guys from behind, crosschecking heads, targeting the head, and using sticks as weapons so you can forgive them in a small way for being completely flummoxed when they see a hit like Trouba’s live. The media, however, watches hockey for a living and should know better. But then again I know better than to expect that to happen so that’s on me.
  • Anyway, the Rangers have some work to do here. Hopefully Lindgren is back sooner rather than later — and it was lovely to see Tyler Motte back on the ice as well.