After a mini hiatus, the NY Rangers bounced back from their loss against the Boston Bruins and defeated the Florida Panthers behind a dominating third period. Let’s break it down.
EVERY WHICH WAY
Six goals in a game will always be fantastic, no matter how they are scored. I don’t care if all six deflect off the referee and into the net; it’s a tremendous number.
However, it was their eclectic nature that made the goals last night so special. Among them was the patented power-play snipe by Mika, two beautiful dirty, hard-fought goals in the crease by Vesey and Lafreniere, respectively, and some pretty skill goals by Fox and Mika again off a beautiful feed by Bread.
Throw in the three sweetest words in hockey (Empty Net Goal), and you have a well-rounded offensive performance we could all get used to.
Now while I just said I don’t care how goals are scored as long as we win, one thing you should know about me is I’m a hypocritical liar. Look at all those goals I mentioned, and you’ll see promising signs for individual players throughout. The offensive stars last night, both the goal scorers and those with assists, represented much-needed boosts for those players.
First on that list, of course, is Alexis Lafreniere, who had gone without a goal for eighteen games. He was noticeable and active all night, but that effort needs to be reflected on the scoresheet. Nothing was fancy about the goal itself, but that’s almost more admirable. For a player fighting to find his niche, showing that he has the heart and guts to do anything necessary stands out. He added an assist later on the empty net goal for a two-point night.
There were positive developments for others that bode well for future trends. Mika had two goals (including a power-play snipe that has been inconsistent this season). Three assists for Panarin and a goal and two assists for Adam Fox, who is quietly having another Norris-worthy season. Add in two assists for Kakko and that empty-net tally for Chytil, and you’re looking at a blueprint that the Rangers front office had in mind when crafting this team.
We have lamented the Rangers’ inability to finish their scoring chances, leading to their erratic offensive numbers.
One aspect of finishing that has turned around in a big way this season has been their ability to finish games strong by dominating the third period. Granted, Florida came in as one of the worst teams in the final frame, but it still speaks volumes that, for the most part, the Rangers have been at their best in the third period.
That held true last night as they outscored the Panthers 3-1 in the third and controlled the play throughout. It was also encouraging not to see them play in a passive shell, even with a two-goal lead. Hopefully, that’s a mantra that remains a part of their DNA.
ODDS AND ENDS
There’s so much negativity in assessing this team that I’m not going to really harp on too much after a 6-2 victory. So instead, here are some quick thoughts.
- The Rangers still get too sloppy in their own end with the puck when they are trying to clear. I’m not saying to launch the puck for an automatic icing, but their hesitation, tentativeness, and need to make a perfect pass leads to too much time stuck in their defensive zone.
- Again, the Rangers take the air out of the Garden by quickly giving back a goal (this time by taking a dumb too-many-men penalty) right after Fox wowed the crowd with his tally. I realize it’s human nature that the other team will start to push once they’ve been scored on, but that doesn’t mean we always have to relent under that pressure.
CAN I GO NOW?
- The goalie usually isn’t the story when your team scores six goals, but Igor was really good again last night. The Rangers were severely outshot for the first half of that game, and while they weren’t all of the high-danger variety, Shesterkin was calm and his usual solid self in the net.
- A horrible moment for Sam Bennett when he got tangled up with Chytil’s skate, and his knee went into the boards. Everyone was surprised then when he came back later in the game. My first thought was it was a severe injury, like a torn ACL. However, Florida doubling down on that instead of using precaution might have cost them as he left later when his leg awkwardly hit the goal post.
- Gallant, surprisingly, was not effusive with his praise about his new lines, which probably means (sigh!) we’re going to see another change. Honestly, it’s maddening, and he needs to exhibit more patience. Chemistry will only be achieved if you let these lines (ANY lines) marinate. If you’re not going to leave them alone after a six-goal performance, when will you?
- I know pulling your goalie is all the rage now, but Florida did it with NINE minutes left. That was something to see. Of course, it paid off with one goal, but the deficit was too much to climb back from.
- Speaking of that empty net, Igor was soooooo close. Off the stick, I thought he had it, but the puck just went wide. Have patience cause he’ll get his goal someday.
- The next game is Wednesday at Toronto, which should be another high-flying affair.