I think a lot of credit needs to be given to the Ottawa Senators, who have played very well despite a slew of injuries and continued that trend tonight. They have enough young talent to step in and play a competitive game.
Of course, the Rangers still have superior talent and should be on the right end of a result at home against a young, injured team like this. Still, I don't think the Rangers played terribly by any means. They just made a few more mistakes than their opponent, and Ottawa made sure to make the Rangers pay. The winning streak was bound to end some time. Now the Rangers need to start a new one instead of continuing on the course they've taken for much of this season; following winning streaks with an equal and opposite losing streak. Let's look at some post-game thoughts.
Ryan McDonagh: We'll start with the positives and work our way down. I thought McDonagh played one of his best games in a while tonight. He made a hideous turnover in the first few minutes of the game, but otherwise did just about everything right. He was positionally sound, blocked his fair share of shots (4) and threw the body around (4 hits). I also loved the way he was rushing up the ice with the puck. For whatever reason the Rangers haven't been getting as much offense from the point as they're capable of. McDonagh put in a much better effort tonight in both ends of the ice.
Brad Richards: A solid return for Brad. Six shots on goal from him, including a nice wrist shot off of a Hagelin feed to tie the game at 2-2. The Rangers absolutely need Richards to play to his potential in order to make a deep playoff run. Hopefully he can get into a groove.
Carl Hagelin: Hags is becoming the model of consistency. It seems that he's making his mark offensively in virtually every game this season. Tonight, he burst down the left wing enough to draw the defenseman to him, dropped the puck off for a trailing Richards, who had plenty of room to get a shot off thanks to Hagelin, and Richards put it home. Hagelin is developing into a poor man's Tony Amonte. Speed in itself is meaningless if one does not know how to utilize it (just ask Enver Lisin). Hagelin has learned how to use his speed to create space for not only himself but his teammates.
Micheal Haley: The most popular justification for keeping Stu Bickel in the lineup tonight over Boyle was that we needed a physical player capable of fighting to match Neil and the rest of Ottawa. I can't recall anything that Bickel did of note, but Haley had probably his best game as a Ranger, creating some energy with a hit (that was called a charge) and throwing down with Chris Phillips. Whenever Asham is healthy I sincerely hope Micheal Haley is given an extended stay in favor of Bickel. Haley can skate decently, is solid on the forecheck, and has scored a handful of goals at the NHL level.
Defense From Forwards: Some mistakes were made by defensemen, but all three goals can be more or less attributed to lazy, or at least bad decision making, by the Rangers forwards. Ottawa's first goal of the game came when Derek Stepan completely lost Zack Smith in the high slot. The second goal was from defenseman Patrick Wiercioch, who had all the time in the world to wind up and pick his spot. The third goal was the result of a rebound from an Eric Gryba point shot where he, again, was afforded plenty of time at the point. The Rangers' eagerness to collapse in the slot and block shots is great and can be a big help to Henrik Lundqvist, but there also needs to be a measure of pressure from the wingers on the point men. Otherwise, if you give the opposition enough unmolested opportunities from the point then a few will inevitably get passed the wall of skaters and go in the net or pop out for a rebound. The consequences of not doing so were lethal tonight.
Marian Gaborik: He's the best shooter on the team, yet he only had two shots tonight; even with two powerplays. That wasn't the result of any tactical brilliance from Ottawa. He just was not getting open tonight. OT goal aside last night, Gabby is in the middle of a slump, and we can't afford constant inconsistencies from our top players. We lost depth in the offseason. That's not at all a problem… if we get what we need from our best forwards. Especially with Richards coming back from injury and trying to rediscover his game, Gaborik simply needs to be better.
In sum, not a poor performance from the Rangers. But not even close to the complete 60 minute effort we saw last night. Against a hard working team like Ottawa, only putting the bike into top gear for stretches of the game is going to lead to failure more often than not. Maybe a second game in two nights had something to do with it. A single loss after four straight wins is not the end of the world. But now comes an important part of the season for the Rangers as they go on a road-trip. Time to put together another winning streak instead of continuing this see-saw of winning and losing.
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