Rangers Vs. Blue Jackets: When It Rains It Fours
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- On to the game. The Rangers are on a four-game winning streak here, and have looked somewhat better game by game. Yes, there’s still problems on this defense, and yes, this team is going to have to win a lot of games run-and-gun but they’ve both rescued their coach and their playoff hopes.
- However, I will give Alain Vigneault credit that his top-six stuff has been fine. He hasn’t touched the KBZ line, and he’s giving Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, J.T. Miller, and Kevin Hayes big ice time, too. Jimmy Vesey has found himself on the bench in the third (again, based on his defense, this isn’t a bad call) but still played more than Paul Carey and David “I Seriously Have No Idea What He Did To Get Benched” Desharnais.
- Defensive lineup/usage remains an issue. Nick Holden played more than all but Ryan McDonagh. That’s a problem -- even if you want to continue to claim bloggers do nothing but complain about wins and chart boys and the like. Him and Steven Kampfer got regular shifts down the stretch in the third, too. That’s a problem. Holden can’t be playing more than McDonagh, Shattenkirk and Skjei at even strength. That’s not OK.
- This game is part of what’s so frustrating about this team, though. There is a competent hockey team in that lineup (more so in the ideal lineup, but I digress). This team can be so explosive at times that it almost feels like the struggles we’ve seen were a different team. The problem? That team exists somewhere in there, too.
- A moment in this game stood out to be, though. When Columbus went back up 3-2 and killed both the momentum and the crowd, the Rangers responded in kind. That was impressive. It wasn’t just the instant power play goal from Chris Kreider, but really that and the Pavel Buchnevich response on the very next power play. The Rangers power play is, has been, and will probably need to continue to be their White Knight. It went 3-for-5 last night, and is converting at a 24.2% clip. That’s good for 6th in the NHL -- dangerous close to elite.
- A big part of that, by the way, is Kevin Shattenkirk. A goal and an assist last night. He has 15 points in 16 games. Remind me again why he’s not good, and how bad he is, and how he’s not helping the power plan, and blah blah blah.
- Mika “Hot Tracks” Zibanejad now has 17 points in 16 games. He, once again, took over the third period for the Rangers and finished the game with three assists. That’s all I’ll say on this. You know the drill already. He’s critically important to this team and is easily a top-six center. Glad that argument is done.
- Pavel “Seriously At One Point I Was Constantly On The Fourth Line” Buchnevich had a power play game-winner and an assist. He has 12 points in 16 games (even split of six goals and six assists) and that includes all that fourth line nonsense. Over 17 minutes last night. Play the kid that much (or more) all the time. Mika had a fun little stat, too: /
Pavel Buchnevich now has 12 points (3-9-12) in the 11 career games in which he's played 16.5+ minutes— HockeyStatMiner (@HockeyStatMiner) November 7, 2017
- Brady Skjei had another one of those “damn man” shifts. He’s had a lot of those lately.
- Better game from Ryan McDonagh. I hate that we’re monitoring this, but here we are.
- J.T. Miller had what has to be one of the best passes of the year for the Michael Grabner goal. He now has 15 points in 16 games. Think the Rangers are regretting that bridge deal yet? Woof. He’s also been one of the Rangers better players of late. The kid is legit.
- Henrik Lundqvist was OK, I thought. He’d really want the second goal back — it was almost like he guessed on where the shot was going to come — but people expecting perfection probably aren’t going to get it. I don’t think it’s unfair to say Lundqvist has lost a step, but I also don’t think it’s unfair to say he’s still one of the better goalies in the league. Lundqvist had to make a lot of really big saves down the home stretch, and he bailed the Rangers out a few times. This defense (especially without Brendan Smith) isn’t great, and the chances that the Rangers give up at times are things you and I could potentially finish. That’s not good.
- For all the compliments; this game -- much like the other four they’ve won -- could have been a loss easily enough. The Rangers have gotten some bounces (finally) but they have a ton of things they need to clean up. Still, I’m much more comfortable with where they are now than I was a week ago. /