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Rangers fall to the Flyers, but the team is starting to fall into place

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-flyers-1-26

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers lost 2-0 last night against the Flyers, but it was the kind of game where you win nine out of ten times with that kind of effort.

There’s really no such thing as a “feel good loss” because in the end, the Rangers got no points, but it wasn’t the kind of loss that concerns you. The Rangers got 34 shots on goal and hit the post multiple times but couldn’t get anything past Steve Mason. He played extremely well and stole the game away for the Flyers.

Unfortunately, the Rangers were undone late in the game by a power play goal from Wayne Simmonds and a weird deflection that was put in by Michael Grabner and credited to Jakub Voracek. Both goals were results of broken plays and a breakdown in front of the net.

They played very well though. The Rangers had a lot of possession and high scoring chances and could have realistically scored four or five goals. But Mason made some remarkable saves, especially on Rick Nash and Michael Grabner early on in the game. On top of that, Grabner hit the post on a breakaway, and Mats Zuccarello hit the post at least twice. Truly a case of bad luck.

Henrik Lundqvist played another outstanding game. He gave up only two goals and stopped 24 shots, meaning that he has surrendered six goals over the last four contests. Despite having a pretty rough season overall, he’s showing signs of breaking out of his extended slow start. Four goof games in a row is a really good sign, but this needs to keep happening on an even more consistent basis.

On top of that, the defense has even shown signs of improving. There were some bad moments last night on the goals, but it’s generally been a much better performance from the pairings. Marc Staal is still out with post-concussion symptoms, so Adam Clendening has been playing. The pairing of Brady Skjei and Clendening has been pretty strong in their sheltered minutes as well as adding another puck mover and offensive threat to the blue line. I don’t like the pairing of McDonagh and Girardi, but both have looked fine. And the always-steady Nick Holden has helped Kevin Klein as well.

Having a fully healthy forward group has really helped too. Unfortunately, Kevin Hayes was injured so everyone isn’t available, but we saw the fully healthy group together for a few games. Having Stepan, Zibanejad and Hayes all playing creates an incredible amount of depth and scoring in the Rangers lineup. Pavel Buchnevich is an extremely talented offensive player and a big boost to the top six, as well as Rick Nash.

When looking at this offensive group, they’re definitely good enough to win a championship. There’s an incredible amount of scoring talent as well as a balance between skill, speed and defensive ability among the forwards.

The defense has shown good signs but is still a major flaw. Realistically, the Rangers will need to add a defenseman at the trade deadline. Dan Girardi isn’t a capable or consistent partner for Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Klein has struggled a lot, and Adam Clendening isn’t going to solve all of the problems. There have been enough defensive deficiencies this season to make me concerned about how they would perform in the playoffs. While the forwards are certainly capable of carrying a team for a playoff run, the defense is certainly not.

Henrik Lundqvist’s string of good performances have made me feel more confident about him. He was able to get a lot of starts with Antti Raanta out and it’s benefitted him. The bad goals have been down in the last four games, his positioning looks vastly better, and he’s making a ton of great saves. If this becomes the Henrik that we see every night, hopefully it means that he’s back to normal. He tends to perform better in the second half of the season and when the games actually matter.

Overall, seeing the team fully healthy has made me cautiously optimistic. I still don’t think they can go that far in the playoffs because of the defense and because Lundqvist hasn’t been able to totally bail them out. But as the team gets healthier and play more games, things are starting to fall into place. The Rangers have a few weeks to assess the team before making a move, but we’re starting to see the true New York Rangers.

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Posted on January 26, 2017, in Game Recaps, In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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