The Rangers had to win on Thursday night in Philadelphia. They had to, and they did. It wasn’t pretty, and they did everything they could to lose, like not scoring on a penalty shot or not scoring during two minutes of a 5-on-3 or not scoring during an overtime power play or by allowing the game-tying goal with 1:14 left in regulation. Thankfully, they got two points, and maybe the 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers is the win that turns their season around.
1. When the Flyers scored 59 seconds into Wednesday’s game, all I could do was laugh. In the middle of a four-game losing streak and coming off the team’s worst performance of the season, allowing a goal in the opening minute was so predictable it was comical. When the Rangers were shut out in the first period, it wasn’t a surprise, considering how little offense they have generated since their 2-0 loss to the Islanders on Feb. 8.
2. Through the first period in Philadelphia, the Rangers had scored four goals in 13 periods with only one of the goals coming from a top-six forward (Pavel Buchnevich). The Rangers still only managed two goals against the Flyers, so they now have scored six goals in 15 periods. Here are the goal scorers:
3. When Colin Blackwell is the team’s leading goal scorer over a five-game span, it’s easy to see how the team is 1-3-1 in those five games. As I wrote earlier, Buchnevich is the only top-six forward to have a goal in the last five games or nine percent of the season. Artemi Panarin (5-11-16) and Buchnevich (4-6-10) are the only Rangers to have double-digit points this season, and Panarin leads the team in scoring despite having missed two games.
4. To put the Rangers’ offensive issues in perspective, Connor McDavid (9-23-32) has one less point than the Rangers’ top three scorers (Panarin, Buchnevich and Ryan Strome) combined. McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (10-18-28) have one less goal (19) than Panarin, Buchnevich, Strome, Chris Kreider, Kaapo Kakko and Mika Zibanejad combined (20). McDavid and Draisaitl have as many points combined (60) as Panarin, Buchnevich, Strome, Blackwell, Phil Di Giuseppe, Kreider, Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, Zibanejad, Brett Howden and Alexis Lafrenière combined.
5. Despite countless chances every game to break out of his goal-scoring slump, Zibanejad is still stuck on one goal this season. One. In 15 games. That’s a four-goal pace in a 56-game season and a six-goal pace in an 82-game season. He’s not the only one though. Kakko has emerged as one the team’s best players in his second season, but he still only has two goals and one assist in 14 games. A 12-point pace in a 56-game season and an 18-point pace in an 82-game season. Lafrenière has one goal. That’s it. No assists. One goal. In 15 games. I didn’t see that coming from the most highly-touted No. 1 overall prospect since McDavid. (To his credit, he hasn’t exactly been paired with the best linemates for the majority of his first NHL season.)
6. The breakaway problem is a huge problem. I don’t know how suddenly become better at breakaways, but the Rangers need to. On both ends of breakaways. Their players can’t score on them and their goalies can’t stop them. It’s been an issue with Chris Kreider for his entire career, and had he been able to score on a few in the Stanley Cup Final against the Kings, the Rangers might have won that series. But it’s not just Kreider. It’s everyone. I have zero confidence in the Rangers scoring on a breakaway and zero confidence Igor Shesterkin or Alexandar Georgiev will stop one. When Pavel Buchnevich had a penalty shot on Thursday, I knew he wasn’t going to score. He put together a much worse attempt than I thought he would, but it didn’t matter, the result was always going to be the same. I was pleasantly surprised though when Georgiev held strong in the shootout. I didn’t see it going that way.
7. After picking former Ranger (I love saying that) Tony DeAngelo as the Rangers’ third shooter in the team’s first shootout against the Penguins earlier this season, David Quinn picked logical shooters this time. (DeAngelo essentially fell on his face in his attempt.) Kakko first and then Panarin with Zibanejad ready as the third shooter, if needed (he wasn’t). That’s more like it. (I would like to know who would have been the fourth shooter if it had gotten there. I would like to think it would have been Lafrenière, but I’m sure it wasn’t. Maybe I don’t want to know who it would have been.)
8. When Libor Hajek and Jack Johnson make up one-third of the team’s defensemen, it’s hard to envision the team winning. Johnson took yet another early first-period penalty (a tripping penalty 2:47 into the game), but otherwise, he wasn’t as bad as he’s been this season (though the bar was set very low). Even if the Flyers weren’t close to full strength because of protocols, it was still an encouraging effort from the defense.
9. The Rangers went 4-7-3 in the first quarter of the season, leaving themselves no margin for extended error for the remaining three quarters of the season. They will have to win two-thirds of the 42 games left, and that means something around a 28-14 record the rest of the way. The win over the Flyers takes it down to 27-14 the rest of the way.
10. I guess the one good thing is the Rangers’ season isn’t over from a playoff berth standpoint despite winning only five of their first 15 games and despite getting basically zero production from the top two lines outside of Panarin, and on occasion Buchnevich. It’s close to being over from a playoff berth standpoint, and another extended losing streak like the two four-game ones they have already had will essentially eliminate them, but it’s not over yet.
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