After two heartbreaking losses to the Boston Bruins, a new week gave Rangers fans a chance to see if New York could bounce back and find their game. With many talking about how bad of a job coach David Quinn is doing, they forget that some of the blame lies on the players. The coach can only change line-pairings and combinations before the players’ effort needs to be called into question.
With the top lines performing more poorly than the bottom, a lot of fans may wonder what is going on with the Rangers. Inconsistency in performance, playing too much on the safe side, and looking better in practice time than the actual games are a few signs of possible mental issues in an athlete. Does the entire team have one huge mental block they cannot traverse?
What happens when an entire team displays it?
It appeared that with the game against the New Jersey Devils it would be the same old Rangers. They were still showing signs of that mental block, like a neon display for an open bar.
In the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, it did not appear that they would eke out a win, despite Philly missing quite a few of their starters, thanks to COVID-19 protocols. With a win in overtime, fans wondered if it would carry over into the game against the Washington Capitals. Apparently, it did.
Is it going to be enough to get past the team’s mental blocks? Time will tell.
New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils
Madison Square Garden
February 16, 2021
The Rangers found themselves hosting a Devils team that hadn’t played since January 31. Fans of each team might have expected New Jersey to have a little rust to shake off, but they didn’t miss a beat. The Blueshirts struggled offensively throughout the game, especially in the third period before falling by a score of 5-2.
The first period went by without any pucks finding the net. Both goalkeepers kept their respective teams in the game, but the Devils outshot the Rangers 16 to nine. In the first period there were four penalties, with each team taking two, keeping the game interesting.
New Jersey found the net first in the second period with a goal by Pavel Zacha. About four minutes later, Colin Blackwell was able to tie the game for the Rangers with Brett Howden‘s assist. Will Butcher gave the Devils the lead again, and a few minutes after that Pavel Buchnevich tied it up for the Rangers again with assists by Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba.
The third period was the worst offensively for the Rangers, which seems to be the norm of late. It is not that they suddenly forgot how to play offensively, but the team could not create the chances. The Rangers allowed Yegor Sharangovich and Nicholas Merkley to score for the Devils in the latter half of the third. The empty-net goal by Mikhail Maltsev was the final nail in New York’s coffin to seal the game for the Devils.
New York Rangers @ Philadelphia Flyers
Wells Fargo Center
February 18, 2021
In the first game of a three-game road trip, the Rangers traveled to Philadelphia to face the Flyers for the first time this season. Though the Flyers hadn’t played a game since Super Bowl Sunday, they made it look effortless as they took control of the scoreboard less than a minute into the game on a goal by Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
Penalties taken by two Flyers near the end of the period gave the Rangers a two man advantage and could have been a turning point for them. However, Kreider took an unnecessary penalty 35 seconds in, making it a one-man advantage, resulting in a run-of-the-mill power-play.
The second period found New York tying the game on a power-play goal by Blackwell, assisted by Buchnevich and Anthony Bitetto. Near the end of the period, Buchnevich was awarded a penalty shot after Ivan Provorov was called for slashing on his breakaway. Carter Hart made a save on the penalty shot to keep the score tied at 2-2. The Rangers closed out the period with a penalty by Ryan Strome, which would carry over into the first 30 seconds of the third period.
With the teams going back and forth with possession, it felt like a century had passed since someone had scored. Brendan Smith broke the monotony nearly midway through as he netted his first goal of the season. The assists were credited to Artemi Panarin and Strome, giving the team their first lead of the game. With the Rangers’ history of having trouble holding the lead, most fans were planning to keep their fingers crossed until the final buzzer sounded. The Blueshirts did not disappoint.
With less than two minutes to go in the game, the Flyers were able to tie the game on a goal by Joel Farabee. Overtime found the Rangers playing decently, and it seemed they had an endless number of chances to score, but in reality, they ended up with only four shots on goal.
The OT period ended with the score still tied, and the game rolled into a shootout. Kevin Hayes was up first for the Flyers and was successfully blocked by Alexandar Georgiev, then Kaapo Kakko was able to put one in for the Rangers. Sean Couturier scored on Georgiev and Panarin scored for the Rangers. Georgiev successfully blocked the shot from James van Riemsdyk, securing the win for New York.
New York Rangers @ Washington Capitals
Capital One Arena
February 20, 2021
The Rangers went into the game attempting to build on their previous win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Having previously beaten the Capitals 4-2 on February 4, they still had their work cut out if they wanted to create a winning streak. K’Andre Miller was back in the lineup after missing two games, and approximately 15 minutes before the start of the game it was announced that Kakko was back on the NHL’s COVID-19 list.
It was a slow-starting game, but the visitors were able to score late in the first period with a goal from Kreider, assisted by Panarin and Strome after a hooking penalty on Lars Eller. The Caps appeared to lack energy in the period, despite having more shots on goal than the Rangers.
The second period appeared to go the team’s way as well. They outshot Washington 13 to 11, grabbing a few goals along the way; the scoring occurring with less than four minutes left in the game. Alexis Lafreniere got his first regulation goal with assists credited to Panarin and Bitetto. Less than a minute later, Strome got his 100th career goal. The assists went to Ryan Lindgren and Buchnevich. The Rangers were up 3-0 until Dmitry Orlove scored with less than a minute left in the period to cut the Rangers lead to two goals.
Washington’s late goal in the second seemed to give them a little life in the third. They played better and outshot the Rangers eight to five, but New York was able to hold firm and keep the lead they had. Mika Zibanejad put the icing on the cake with an empty-net goal with less than three minutes remaining. It is no secret that Zibanejad has not had a great season, and this was his first goal in nearly thirteen games. Hopefully, getting a goal and a win will help spur Zibanejad and the whole team to keep fighting for that winning streak.
The Rangers will need to find a way to keep the momentum going into the next two games this week. They’ll face the Philadelphia Flyers on February 24 and the Boston Bruins on the 26th.