Were the Rangers just out of practice on Saturday, or is something deeper going on?
The Rangers’ week off showed when they played against Edmonton on Saturday. After the long hiatus, the Rangers were a bit rusty when they stepped on the ice resulting in them dropping the game 4-1, their first loss of the season.
On top of that, the Rangers have another two days before they play again Thursday, this time against the Devils. (Though with Zibanejad and Lemieux sick with the flu, Staal out on maintenance, and Kreider suffering from a minor LBI, it might be a good thing the Rangers have the extra days this time.) However, the question remains as to whether it was the time off that hurt the Rangers against Edmonton or lapses in their own play.
The first period went fairly well for the Rangers who ended it up 1-0 on a late goal from Kaapo Kakko. They looked cohesive and were able to move the puck well and match Edmonton’s speed. But the second period is where things started to collapse. Edmonton came out of the gate fast, and the Rangers were unable to catch up, resulting in a goal by Oscar Klefbom 6:45 into the period.
Due to some outstanding saves by Lundqvist, the Rangers were able to keep the score tied at one heading into the third. However, they were unable to rally, and Edmonton sealed the deal with two more goals; one by McDavid which went in off Trouba’s leg, and one poked through Lundqvist’s pads by Draisaitl. Edmonton then scored an empty-netter with 15 seconds left to clinch the game.
There are several reasons things went downhill for the Rangers in the latter two periods.
First, the Rangers seemed to be back on their heels after their first goal, chasing rather than shooting. They were visibly outpaced by a faster, crisper Edmonton team and got outshot 14-9 in the third period.
Second, the Rangers allowed too many odd-man rushes in the later periods which created a bunch of prime scoring opportunities for Edmonton. In previous games, like the one against Winnipeg, the Rangers have covered these defensive lapses by using their much-improved offense to outscore the other team. Had they not gone 0 for 4 on their power plays against Edmonton, the Rangers might’ve had a much better shot at winning this game.
Though it’s tempting to blame all this on schedule, it’s pretty clear the Rangers still have issues that weren’t entirely due to rust. Mika Zibanejad himself acknowledged as much an interview.
The Rangers have real things they need to address in their play both defensively and offensively, though their lopsided schedule isn’t doing them any favors. But even though this game was a loss, it was still nice to see Kakko score his first goal in the NHL, surely the first of many to come.