Last night was fun, huh?
Before we get to the game, let’s talk about the Rangers this year. Their motto has been a Tom Cruise tagline – “I feel the need…the need for speed!” – and it has been fun to watch. Before and after every game, we hear the players giving some variation of saying how they have to use their speed.
But what happens when a team shuts that speed game down? We have what we witnessed last night.
I’ve seen mentioned how great Anderson was or complaints about how frustrating Boucher’s system is to play against. Yes, Anderson was fine but he could’ve had a four course meal during the game and still gotten the shutout. And I agree that their defensive style is excruciating to watch. But here’s the thing, good teams find a way around it. Good teams enter a game with more than just Plan A.
I will admit that I defend Vigneault. I don’t have a problem with most of the things others do about him. But his inability (and yes, it is an inability) to adjust during a game is beyond infuriating. You want to play a speed game? That’s great. But when a team clogs up the neutral zone, then what are you going to do? For Vigneault, it’s continue to put a square peg into a round hole and hope one time it fits. And that is what doomed the Rangers last night.
I watched as the Rangers repeatedly tried to skate through the wall Ottawa created on their side of the red line. Each and every time it turned into a turnover and the puck going the other way. I understand the players are stubborn so wanted to keep trying through the first 20 minutes. How there wasn’t another game plan put in place during the first intermission I will never understand.
It took until halfway through the third period for them to attempt a dump and chase game. Just one problem – the Rangers still haven’t figured out they have to “chase” after they “dump”. But at least the puck got near Anderson. Granted any time it did, the shots were from the perimeter but it was a start. Maybe if they had done that in the first or second period, they would’ve figured out a way to get a goal (or made Anderson work for the shutout).
I know a lot of people blamed the defense, who overall did not have a great night. But when they were able to get the pucks out of their zone, the forwards would turn it right over. The Rangers defense is far from perfect but when the team is bad defensively, I think we have to get out of the habit of only blaming those six. The forwards have a big part to play in that as well.
I’ve always wondered how the Rangers goalies feel during games like this. Late in the third period, it looked like the Senators would be in on a breakaway. Raanta skated towards the blue line and not only stopped the play but then passed the puck all the way up the ice to try to give the Rangers a scoring opportunity instead. It was probably the best pass of the night (that there is somehow no video of). Basically it looked like Raanta would’ve skated it down himself if he was allowed. If the goalies can see what the issue is, I don’t understand why the players and coaches can’t. Fix that and Vigneault might actually get the Jack Adams this year. Oh, and the Rangers probably would’ve won last night.
(Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)