In what really wasn't a bad effort, the Rangers fell to the Blues last night 2-1, despite outshooting the boys from St. Louie 35-25 and getting another goal from Rick Nash (make it 10 in 10 games). With the loss, the Blueshirts (27-23-3) have dropped back to back games for the first time since December 18th and 20th, and for the first time in regulation since December 8-12 (3 games).
-The Blues are very difficult to play against. They don't give you a lot of room, and because of that, they play a lot of aesthetically ugly games. In other words, there was never going to be a lot of creating off the rush in this game–on either side–and true to form, there wasn't.
-The game was essentially a dump and chase battle, which, stylistically favored the Blues. Right now–aside from Rick Nash–the Rangers biggest asset is their team speed. Take that away, and make them play in tight spaces while being closely guarded, and it's not going to be easy for the Blueshirts to find the net.
-With all this in mind, the Rangers played about as well as anyone could have realistically hoped against a good team that was in a particularly ornery mood after an embarrassing loss two nights before in the swamps of Jersey.
-The Blueshirts got off to what was perceived as a "bad start," but really, it was a slow start for both teams–it just so happened that St. Louis got a bounce early, and the Rangers didn't.
-Speaking of that bounce, Alex Steen's goal off his skate was not a good one for Henrik Lundqvist to allow. It was a squeaker, somehow slipping under/through him. He didn't seem that upset about it after the game, which is surprising given that The King is often his own harshest critic, but the rule of thumb as a goaltender is if you get a piece, it shouldn't go in–especially on a puck traveling well below the speed limit.
-Nash's efforts on the PK late in the 2nd set up the Rangers best flurry of the game. The Big Smooth generated a chance shorthanded–barreling to the net and sending bodies flying–that really seemed to change the momentum. For the rest of the period, the Blueshirts had the Blues scrambling, and eventually tied the game on Nash's howlitzer.
-But it didn't carry over. St. Louis made the third period akin to playing in a phonebooth–the Rangers only generated 7 shots, and few high quality ones, in the final frame. Jaroslav Halak periodically spat out some bad rebounds throughout the game, but the Blues make you pay quite the price to get to them, and the Blueshirts couldn't.
-Henrik Lundqvist's take on the game:
"It was a tight-checking game. I felt like we played really well 5 on 5. The difference was they won the special teams game with one goal. We talk about it so many times, if you win that special teams game, you're gonna have a good chance of winning."
-He's right. The Rangers probably even outplayed St. Louis–the best 5 on 5 team in the league with a 1.49 goals for/against ratio–at even strength. But, the Blueshirts special teams–which has been a revelation–was beaten by one. The power play wasn't clicking, and Kevin Shattenkirk's PP game winner wasn't anything special–just a simple slapper from the point with bodies in front of a screened Lundqvist.
-Essentially, this game boiled down to St. Louis scoring two "garbage goals" and the Rangers scoring none. It happens.
-Amazingly, on his 10 goals in 10 games streak, Nash doesn't have an assist, nor does he have one in the entirety of the New Year. Quite frankly, who cares. That's more an indictment on his linemates than anything else.
-Kevin Klein was as advertised. Solid, and relatively unnoticeable, but, stay-at-home defenseman rarely are noticeable–unless they make a glaring mistake. Vigneault called him "safe and dependable." Sounds like a car commercial.
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