NYR/NYI Review: Roller-Coaster Gut-Wrenching Loss For The Consistently Inconsistent NYR, Eric Staal Steps Up, Time To Worry About The Playoffs & More

The Goalie Mask used in the first period by both teams

Welcome Ranger fans to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. With the way this game ended, the Oilers game on right now and with Shameless/Bar Rescue/Walking Dead coming up, I just want to breeze through this blog and forget this game.

The Islanders defeated the Rangers 6-4 on Sunday afternoon. As a result of the win, the Islanders not only win the season series, as they are up 3-0 with one to go, but also gain 2 points on the second place Rangers. The Rangers, who have 82 points, saw the Islanders close the gap to 3 points, as the Islanders now have 79 points. The biggest kicker? The Islanders still have 3 games in hand.

With Pittsburgh the only true threat at the third seed in the Metropolitan division & the Capitals basically locking down the 1 seed, it is nearly a lock that the Rangers and Islanders will meet in the first round of the playoffs this year. The Rangers have been god-awful against the Islanders these last two seasons, so if you’re a Ranger fan like myself, you have to be worried a bit.

Can the Rangers beat the Islanders in a best of 7 series? Sure they can. The biggest problem, as it’s been all season, is that the Rangers are consistently inconsistent. You don’t know what team will show up. At their hottest, the Rangers should steamroll the Islanders. When the Rangers come out like this, the Rangers could be swept by the Islanders. I would expect the eventual Ranger/Islander first round series to be nothing but panic attacks and finger-nail biting.

Raanta had his worst game of the season on Sunday.

Raanta, just like every other player on this club, is also consistently inconsistent. Raanta has had some amazing games this season. Just look at his last start, when he helped the Rangers beat the Capitals. He’s also had some disasters, just like how he did today with the Islanders.

There are so many angles and stories to talk about from this game. Like any story, I’ll start at the beginning.

The game looked an automatic “L” for the Rangers with 55 minutes left to play. The Islanders quickly jumped out to a three goal, 3-0 lead, 4:45 into the game. For as bad as Raanta was, the Rangers did him no favors either. They looked like they were in the UFC cage last night, as they came out completely flat and lifeless.

However, good teams find ways to win and fight back. The Rangers did just that. The Rangers added two quick goals, from Lindberg & Glass, making the score 3-2. Johnny Boychuk answered back quickly, making the score 4-2. The Rangers then fought back, and Eric Staal got his first goal as a Ranger, making the score 4-3. If the Rangers somehow won this game, Eric Staal would’ve deserved the Broadway Hat.

The Rangers closed a crazy first period down 4-3 and on the PP. Of course, one thing that has been consistent for the Rangers this season, is how bad they are on the special teams. It would’ve been huge to have this game tied 4-4. They would’ve taken all the momentum.

Halak was horrible on Sunday, but Raanta was worse

After an insane first period, which saw 7 total goals, the Rangers & Islanders settled down and played a scoreless second period. I really liked what I saw from Eric Staal, Keith Yandle, Tanner Glass & Kevin Hayes. They all had strong games. Maybe it was because Raanta was so shaky, but you saw the Rangers get more defensive minded and constantly trying to block shots by sacrificing their bodies. It looked like the Torts Rangers for a bit.

Entering the third, still 4-3, you didn’t know what to expect. The Islanders seemed content to hang back and play defense, while the Rangers dumped & chased with no success. I know you got to have patience sometimes, but the Rangers really don’t have that sense of urgency when down a goal.

With under 10 minutes to go, MSG exploded when Brassard scored a powerplay goal. I know, I was shocked too! You could hear it on TV, see it on the ice and just feel it – the Rangers & MSG were pumped. Sam Rosen was even giddier than normal after a Rangers goal.

After tying the game, the Rangers buckled down and brought the game to the Islanders. You really thought you would see the Hollywood come back victory for the Rangers, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

With 1:28 remaining, Derek Stepan lost a face off in the Rangers defensive zone. The puck went straight to Cal Clutterbuck and he wristed it past Raanta with ease. 5-4 Islanders. The Islanders would get an empty netter to seal the deal immediately afterwards.

While there is plenty of blame to go around for the loss, you have to question Coach AV a bit here. Eric Staal was 20-2 on faceoffs in this game. At the time of the faceoff, late in the third period, Stepan was 6-6. The wrong guy took the draw. The Rangers, who dominated the Islanders in the faceoff department, 41-20, lost the biggest faceoff of the game and it cost them the game. Even bigger, it cost the Rangers at least one point, as this game looked like it was heading towards overtime.

Like Triple H says, “It’s time to play the game!”

This game started off like a masscare then gave you tons of hope. At the end, it was just a heartbreaker. There were plenty of culprits to blame for this terrifying and soul-crushing loss. Here’s a look at them, in order:

  • Antti Raanta- Raanta was horrible. To be fair, he did have a good second period, but he already gave up 4 goals by then. While the Islanders were hot in the first period, Raanta didn’t do anything to cool them down either. Clutterbuck’s game winning goal was a shot Raanta should’ve had. Just an agonizing night for Mr. Raanta.
  • Rangers Powerplay – the Rangers, who did finish 1-3 on the PP, were lucky to get the Brassard goal. The first two power-plays were brutal, as they could not set anything up and the Islanders dominated the puck. The Rangers are too hesitant to shoot on the PP and are always looking for the perfect shot. When you’re down on the scoreboard, you can’t tie the game if you don’t shoot.
  • Coach AV – I’m one of the biggest AV supporters in the world, but even I have to say he did a bad job with this game. For some reason, he benched Miller throughout the game. I don’t know why, I guess I’ll find out in the press conference. Still, even if Miller missed an assignment or screwed up something, I’ve seen Hayes, Kreider and Boyle have leashes that stretch from Long Island to Manhattan. I don’t know why you would bench one of your better goal scorers. AV also screwed up having Stepan take the draw on the play that led to the GWG. AV also has to force this team to take shots. They didn’t get their first shot off until 10 minutes into this game. Unacceptable.
  • Derek Stepan – while you  can’t win every draw, Stepan was flat out beat and embarrassed on the GWG. He also refuses to shoot. Especially with the way Staal was playing in this game, there is no reason Stepan should have more ice time than Staal.
  • The New York Knicks – I swear, their disgusting losing stench permeates around MSG and is contagious!

If you want to be an optimist there were a few things you could take out of tonight’s game. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Eric Staal had an amazing game. He notched his first goal & an assist as a Ranger. He looked like a leader out there. He was doing everything on both sides of the ice. The Rangers, who got a PPG from Brassard late, all started because Staal hustled & bustled to the puck, got to the dirty areas and kept fighting to keep the puck in the Islanders defensive zone.
  • Kevin Hayes was also great tonight. While he didn’t score any goals and had a good look during one play at the net, Hayes played better defensively than he’s ever had this season. He broke up two different plays where the Islanders were rushing to the net. Maybe he got a new brand of spliff.
  • Keith Yandle continues to show us why the Rangers have to keep him past this season. Use Dan Boyle’s money to keep him here. You can’t let him walk. His stretch passes are a thing of beauty. The Rangers gave up a fucking ransom to get Yandle here. You can’t have him wearing another jersey next season.
  • The Rangers didn’t give up. Down 3-0, a lot of teams would’ve just skated around until the game was over. The Rangers fought back and was able to erase a 3 goal deficit. Granted, they didn’t win, but they showed they really wanted it, based on their reactions to their scores and after big plays on the ice. Even losing this game, the Rangers have proved to themselves that they can keep themselves in any game, no matter what the situation.

Here’s the official box score from ESPN.com. As always, my notes are in italics:

1st Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYI NYR
2:50
Johnny Boychuk (6)
Assists: Josh Bailey, Kyle OkposoThis was dreadful, as the Rangers left a defenseman wide open. Raanta should’ve had this.
1 0
3:35
Brock Nelson (22)
Assists: John Tavares, Thomas HickeyBefore you could finish your first beer, the Islanders had the flat-footed Rangers all baffled and Nelson got his 22nd goal of the season.
2 0
4:45
Kyle Okposo (17) (Power Play)
Assists: Nick Leddy, Frans NielsenKevin Hayes took a slashing penalty and it was 3-0 before 5 minutes were played.
3 0
11:16
Oscar Lindberg (12)
Assist: Eric StaalOn what I believe was the second shot of the game for the Rangers, Staal got the puck to Lindberg and Lindberg was able to push it by Halak.
3 1
11:54
Tanner Glass (3)
Assists: Dominic Moore, Kevin HayesTanner Fuckin’ Glass was left wide open in front of the net and buried one home. The tide was turning.
3 2
13:14
Johnny Boychuk (7)
Assists: Anders Lee, Nick LeddyRaanta looked lost as Boychuk beat him again to put the Isles up by 2.
4 2
13:45
Eric Staal (11)
Assists: Dan Boyle, Viktor StalbergStaal drove hard to the net and beat Halak right in front of his face. His celebration was classic, you could see how much this goal meant. The monkey is off his back.
4 3
Time Team Penalty Detail
3:58
Kevin Hayes: 2 Minutes for Slashing Shane Prince
14:17
Dominic Moore: 2 Minutes for High-sticking Frans Nielsen
19:03
Johnny Boychuk: 2 Minutes for Tripping Kevin Hayes

2nd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYI NYR
No scoring this period 4 3
Time Team Penalty Detail
2:53
Mats Zuccarello: 2 Minutes for Hooking Thomas Hickey
13:22
John Tavares: 2 Minutes for High-sticking Keith Yandle

3rd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYI NYR
11:39
Derick Brassard (23) (Power Play)
Assists: Keith Yandle, Derek StepanYandle, who was a stud all game, got the puck to Brassard and Brassard slammed home a slap shot past Halak. Tied game!
4 4
18:32
Cal Clutterbuck (12)
Assist: Casey CizikasThis was off the Stepan loss on the faceoff.
5 4
18:59
Frans Nielsen (19) (Empty Net)
Assists: Nikolay Kulemin, Travis Hamonic
6 4
Time Team Penalty Detail
11:08
Nick Leddy: 2 Minutes for Interference of Viktor Stalberg

Eric Staal was the best player on the ice for the Rangers on Sunday.

I talked in my intro about how big this loss was, standings-wise and the implications on the playoffs. There are things to take into account though. For starters, the Rangers fought back and got 4 goals past Islanders starter Jaroslav Halak. Henrik Lundqvist did not play. Granted, Lundqvist has lost his last 5 against the Islanders, but still, you would like to think that Hank in net improves the Rangers chances at winning.

You can’t say if Hank was in net that the Rangers would’ve won this game, because it would’ve been a different game. Both teams played differently, based on the scoreboard.

Rick Nash is still MIA with a leg injury. Not that he’s been anything great this season, but he is the highest paid skater on the ice for the Blueshirts.

Marc Staal was out again, still suffering from the flu. With Staal, Hank & Nash out, the Rangers were missing 30% of their payroll. That’s pretty fucking nuts.

The Rangers also played with 5 defensemen all game, as McIlrath was out after suffering a leg injury early into the first period. Not to sound cold, but long-term, this injury won’t affect the Rangers that much, as you know AV will make McIlrath the odd-man out come the playoffs. Still, hopefully it is nothing serious and the Undertaker can get back on the ice.

Still, Rangers vs Islanders will be a great series for hockey fans. It will be a heart attack for Ranger fans. We all know this is a win-now team, and while I’m on record as saying I think the Caps go all the way & that I think the window is slammed on the Rangers, if the Rangers don’t get it done this year, you have to think the window is officially slammed down on any Cup hopes. I really think the Rangers fucked up by not LITRing Nash & adding another key piece for the Cup run.

I mean really, just look in sports. Whenever some team, in any sport, does something that is successful, everyone copies it. Couldn’t the Rangers see what the Blackhawks have been doing for years?

Dude, where’s my car?

The Rangers try to extend their second place lead in the Metropolitan Division on Tuesday night, in Buffalo. The Rangers then have 3 days off, before having a back-to-back on Saturday afternoon in Detroit, followed up by hosting the Penguins at 12:30pm on Sunday. I don’t get these schedule makers either. Based on my gambling winnings, I may take off to Montreal in two weeks to see the Rangers battle the Habs!

Time to forget this game and time for Bar Rescue. As far as this blog on the Rangers/Islanders goes, to quote Jon Taffer, “SHUT IT DOWN!”

As always,

LET’S GO RANGERS

Sean Mccaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on twitter

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