Capitals 4, Rangers 1

Capitals' Grubauer stops 30 shots in 1st NHL win

This is an important part of the season for the Rangers. An inconsistent couple of months were manageable with the new coaching staff, injuries, and awful road trips. To hover around .500 at the end of that was pretty okay. Not great, but okay. 

But it's now approaching the middle of December. The team started an eight-game homestand with an understanding of what the coaching staff wants and a relatively healthy team. Two games against the Devils and Capitals, who are hardly tearing up the NHL right now. This homestand badly needs to be a successful one for the Rangers. It's a chance for them to finally break away from .500 and begin a run. Instead, it's two awful losses on back-to-back nights. 

I'm not even going to waste time picking apart tonight's game. Lundqvist let in a soft Oleksy goal but also made some really fantastic stops. McDonagh and Kreider were excellent. Del Zotto looked more comfortable on the left side of the ice, which the Staal absence allowed. Pouliot scored, which is something. Aside from that it was an incredibly underwhelming performance from the Rangers, with the key word being performance; not effort. I don't doubt that the team is trying. This isn't a battle of laziness or apathy. The job just isn't getting done. So let's look at what the options are going forward and how the ship can be righted. I'll warn you ahead of time that it's going to be ugly, and it's going to come off as a manifesto. Take some adderall before tackling this.

John Tortorella/Alain Vigneault

 As the Rangers struggled with consistency and were anemic offensively last season the burden of failure was largely placed on Tortorella; both by fans and management. There was not much roster turnover in the offseason. Instead, Glen Sather banked on a change in coaching staff being the big difference. Here is what he had to say about firing Tortorella and finding a new coach from a tactical, philosophical standpoint when he spoke to The Daily News' Pat Leonard in June:

"He also knew that the Rangers’ style of play needed to evolve to contend with other top NHL teams, or in his words, “the game has changed.' 'If you look at these playoff games (like the Stanley Cup Finals matchup) you’re gonna see, the style that they play, I mean there’s not a hell of a lot of dump-ins,' Sather said. 'I mean, (if) you have to dump the puck in, you have to dump it. But there’s a lot of puck control and hanging onto the puck and moving the puck out, and there’s not stopping behind the net to gain control. There’s a lot of things that are done differently than what we were doing. So you have to look at the style of play. That had a lot to do with (the decision to fire Tortorella), too.'"

There's no doubt that the Rangers are playing a different style right now. There's more of an emphasis on possession as opposed to dumping the puck in and playing a north-south game. But as much as the style of play is different under Vigneault, the end product is pretty similar. As of right now the Rangers are tied for 25th in the NHL in goals-per-game. In fact, we could perhaps argue that the team regressed from last season, when the Rangers finished 15th in the NHL in goals-per-game. 

Now, this is not to place the blame on Vigneault or sit here and lament about Tortorella leaving. That's not the point. This summer Glen Sather made peripheral changes to the lineup, and more or less placed the blame of underachieving on coaching. As Alain Vigneault, who helped cultivate a dynamic, prosperous offense in Vancouver, struggles just as much to milk much production out of this group one has to wonder if Sather dropped the ball in putting all his eggs in the Vigneault basket. Maybe Tortorella was not the problem, and maybe Vigneault, while certainly a brilliant hockey mind, is not himself an all-encompassing solution. Maybe this is just a flawed roster. 

So where do we go from here? Well, as Kevin Power of Blueshirt Banter has pointed out, the Rangers' shooting percentage is abnormally low right now. To some degree the Rangers have just had poor luck and the law of averages will soon start to work in their favor. Still, this does not address the lack of scoring completely. 

Call-ups

Discussing call-ups is, to be frank, a waste of time. Sather and Vigneault have pretty much played every card in the deck as far as Hartford is concerned. Kreider's addition has been much needed. Beyond that there isn't much in the way of NHL-ready talent. We're already stretching the deck with J.T. Miller, who at 20 years old is still very raw and could use some more time in the AHL. Jesper Fast already proved early in the season that he is not ready and an ankle injury has kept him off the ice for the last month. Oscar Lindberg and Danny Kristo are developing just fine but are in no way ready for the NHL. The same can be said for Dylan McIlrath and Connor Allen, who are showing glimpses of NHL quality but lack the consistency and experience. The sad reality is that, beyond Kreider and a desperate call-up of Miller, Hartford is in a transition phase in terms of prospects. The only viable call-up options are the likes of Darroll Powe, Arron Asham, Danny Syvret, and Aaron Johnson; guys who are experienced and could step into a minor role but won't make a tangible difference. Unless a McIlrath, Lindberg, or Kristo really turns on the jets in the next week or two no help is coming from Hartford.

Trades:

If any help is coming, then it's going to be from outside the organization. However, working against the Rangers is limited cap space and the fact that there aren't many teams looking to make big moves this early in the season. Glen Sather has (hopefully) learned from blunders from The Dark Ages when he would ship out prospects for guys like Martin Rucinsky in desperate attempts to stay relevant. Michael Del Zotto has been in all sorts of rumors, and we've seen how Glen Sather can sometimes pull a rabbit out of his hat in the trade market. Still, I don't think we can bank on any big moves coming right now.

Conclusion:

I think, barring something truly great from Sather, we're stuck with what we've got; for better or worse. Hope lies in the fact that it's early December, and, unlike last year's lockout-induced 40-yard dash, it's a long season with 51 games left to play. The best asset Sather and Vigneault have right now is time. There is still plenty of season left to figure things out and get into a groove. Guys like Callahan and Hagelin are going to pick up the goal production at some point. The 2010-2011 Bruins as well as the 2011-2012 Kings both experienced their own existential crisis of sorts during the regular season before going on to win the Stanley Cup. Without even thinking about Stanley Cups, Glen Sather better hope that this is a similar crisis of identity for the Rangers and not simply the true nature of the roster he built. Otherwise, pointing to Tortorella and Sullivan as culpable for offensive woes – and not Sather himself – is going to be very hard to defend.

Highlights:

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Capitals 3, Rangers 1

A defensive lapse and a fluky bounce proved to be the difference in the Washington Capitals' 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. For a full box score, click here

– The talk leading into the game was about staying out of the box against a dangerous Capitals' power play. :34 seconds in and the Rangers take a mindless too many men penalty. Certainly got the message, didn't they?

– 5 penalties is too many to take. Not just because of the opponent, but it disrupts the ability to get into a rhythm offensively. NYR never seized control of the game and were behind right from the get go.

– I love Carl Hagelin and what he brings to the team, but a goal scorer he is not. He plays a top-six role but he's essentially a third-line winger. He got the best offensive chances and if the Rangers expect to win that can't happen because he shows more often than not the inability to finish.

– The two biggest moments from the game: 1) Carl Hagelin's shorthanded breakaway in the 2nd period and 2) failing on the 5-on-3. Hagelin's may be more important because if converted NYR are up 2-0 and the Capitals are on their heels. But the focus is and will be on the power play (0-4) failing to come through when needed.

– Rangers were 18-2-1 during the regular season when scoring the first goal. Now 0-1 in the playoffs.

– Henrik Lundqvist was by no means bad tonight, but the last two goals he surrendered he'd love to have back. Johansson's shot he got a piece off but not enough and the third goal may have been deflected on a screen, too. But Hank was outdueled by the opposing goalie Braden Holtby—a sight rarely seen.

– The D was sloppy tonight and I had a particular issue with Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi on the Caps' 2nd goal. Both let Johansson get behind the play without even looking back (both were focused squarely on the puck). That can't happen with your best defense pair out on the ice.

– Not that it should be made into an excuse, but the officiating was atrocious for both sides tonight. An Asham charge? Questionable. And Ryan Callahan was absolutely jobbed for "roughing." Refs had a poor night to say the least. They tried calling the game "tight" in an effort to control the game and it backfired.

– I hope Rick Nash got the message that Washington plans on playing him extremely physical to try and knock him of his game. Hopefully he makes the necessary adjustments. While not invisible (8 shots) Nash needs to be better.

– Derick Brassard and John Moore had decent playoff debuts and Moore was specifically robbed of a goal. There was no conclusive evidence, but you know that puck was in the net.

– The main thing to take away is a defensive breakdown and a fluky bounce aside, the Rangers had their chances and could've won the game with some better puck luck. Is this the best Washington has to offer? If so, New York can take this series. If not, the Rangers are going to have their hands full.

– If the Rangers can get healthy soon e.g.. Ryane Clowe, Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett and even Marc Staal, it could make a world of difference. The D could use Staal's positioning and calm play on the ice. Not to mention his ability to shut down Ovechkin. Dorsett's energy, Clowe's grittiness along with Boyle's big body and faceoff abilities are sorely missed. Otherwise the team is going to have to make due without the depth they covet.

– Game 2 Saturday afternoon back in DC.

Follow on Twitter @TheWrage. E-mail: Jwrabel9@hotmail.com

About James Wrabel, Jr.

Capitals 4, Rangers 1

bironscoredon
The New York Rangers (22-9-4) lost to the Washington Capitals (18-15-2) by the score of 4-1, tonight. For a boxscore and recap go to Yahoo! Sports.

…listen, you can’t win them all but you have to wonder if this team just wants to get to the Winter Classic at this point. Playing against a desperate Caps team didn’t help.

…in case you haven’t noticed, Richards has just two points (2g) in the last 10 games with a -3.

…i don’t blame Del Zotto for fumbling a bouncing puck on the blueline, but I do for losing his man Johanssen on the goal two seconds later. And what was he doing on the fourth goal?

…didn’t take Hagelin long to go from the penthouse to the outhouse with a -3 and being dropped from the Richards line.

…while Callahan is an absolute warrior out there, I cringe every time I see him throw his body in front of a shot. You have to wonder if the Rangers would be better off if he didn’t do that. See the end of last season.

…Biron pretty much left out to dry tonight. Not much defensive help.

…solid game from Mitchell who was great along the boards tonight.

…did the GAS line miss the stop off in Washington and head straight to Florida?

…remember when the Rangers were winning faceoffs and scoring on the power play? Me neither.

…not really a fan of the fourth line right now. Just not doing it for me.

…off tomorrow then at Florida Firday night.

For post game quotes & video click the “Read More” tab below.

QUOTES:
Brian Boyle…

“We didn’t take care of the puck, and that burned us. We don’t want to give the puck away, we want them to earn it. Those are the things we don’t want to do, and in this league there aren’t a lot of comebacks, so we really beat ourselves.”

Jeff Woywitka…

“Obviously they have some players that transition quick and make things happen quick, and if we are not smart in the right areas they can burn us on it because they have the talent to do that. We weren’t strong enough in those areas tonight, and they got a couple goals off of (turnovers). Now we have to learn from it and move on.”

VIDEO:
Game highlights…

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Kevin

About Kevin

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