The New York Rangers fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-4 at MSG. For a box score, click here.
Where to begin. I know a lot of people are upset Vigneault received an extension and think this team isn’t contender. Personally, I disagree on both counts. Is Vigneault perfect? Of course not. No one is and he definitely has his faults. But his record speaks for itself. Will he still be here at the end of the 2019-20 season? Who knows. But I’m not surprised he was given the chance to be.
As for the team, simply put this team confuses me. Has the goaltending been questionable? Absolutely, and it continued tonight with both goalies looking like backups on bad teams. Is the defense what it was a couple of years ago? Of course not, and we don’t need to keep rehashing that. But where I’m confused is the forwards. I cannot for the life of me understand this forward group. Not just from game to game but it’s gotten to the point where it’s period to period. I have no idea what to expect from them. One minute they’re scoring goals in bunches, like they did in the third period tonight. The next minute they look so lost you wonder if there are impostors in their uniforms, i.e. the majority of the game tonight.
In the past, we’ve always said this team will go as far as Lundqvist and/or the defense will take them. The 2016-17 Rangers will go as far as this forward group will take them. The forwards have gotten off easy in recent years but they have to pick up the slack this year. And it’s not just scoring. When players talk about defense, it’s “team defense”. That includes the forwards. There’s too many nights these guys look more lost in the defensive zone than in the offensive zone. Everyone has to be able to play in both zones.
Take tonight for example. Lundqvist was off so he was pulled after the third goal. When that didn’t wake the team up, Vigneault looked to make another change – and switched up all the forward lines. The defense pairs stayed the same. Yes you can argue not much could be changed there but he’s changed them before. He didn’t tonight. But all four forward lines were scrambled in hopes that something would work. They finally figured out how to get near Korpisalo again and scored four goals so I guess something did, although I’m still not sure if that was them or a young Columbus team taking their foot off the gas.
But that’s what drives me crazy. After forty minutes, I just wanted one goal. Only one. I wasn’t being greedy. Sure I would’ve loved a full comeback but I was starting small. Seven minutes into the third, I had three goals. And it didn’t take them all seven minutes. It took them a span of 3:21. Why? Why do we need to keep attempting these comebacks late? Why does it take them until the third period to wake up?
Yes the team had some chances early in the game. But from my seat upstairs, none of them looked like “Grade A” chances. And instead of capitalizing on their opponents mistakes, Columbus went and did that to them. Game. Set. Match.
I know a lot of people blame the coach but Vigneault can only do so much. This is on the players. On the leaders, who once again were nowhere to be seen tonight. Fans want to point fingers, start there. I know Lundqvist has been blamed a lot (and was again tonight) but I’m talking about everyone else. I’m tired of hearing the same “we need to be better” quotes after each game. I want to see the forwards show up from the start. Stop confusing me and show me who you really are. Tonight was game 50 and they are sitting comfortably in a playoff spot so I refuse to give up on them yet. But if the goaltending and defense you’ve relied on for years isn’t there, then it’s time for the forwards to step up. They did late tonight. Starting on Thursday in Buffalo, it would be nice if they did it in the first period instead of the third.
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