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Game 4: PIT 4 NYR 3, S/O, Avoidable loss, my thoughts and possible tweaks

January 23, 2021, 9:13 PM ET [265 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers fell 4-3 in a shootout Friday to the Penguins. New York's loss was a good news, bad news type of outing, which I will get to below. Clearly some positives, but balanced with negatives, some of which keep repeating, while others are propping up now.

Positives:

1) PDG-Chytil-Kakko - that trio was the team's best line yesterday. David Quinn finally recognized that, giving those three additional ice time in the third period while using Chytil and Kakko in the overtime. With Pierre-Luc Dubois now in Winnipeg, Chytil has a chance to step into the second line center role. 

On a separate note, if PLD and third landed Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic, each of whom wanted out of Winnipeg, possibly impacting their value, New York was going to have to pay until it hurt, Chytil and/or Kakko might have had to be part of the deal. With the team's belief that Chytil is scratching the surface of how good he can be, same with Kakko, the Strome and DeAngelo package others might have wanted dealt just wasn't going to cut the mustard. More on the Chytil/Kakko duo below.

PDG is the physical presence on the line. Chytil had a beautiful goal and hit the post in overtime. Kakko showed his skill as well in the game but also his speed and physical play, getting to the front of the net on the team's third marker. I could see the three staying together but propose a tweak below.

2) K'Andre Miller - after a rough opening game and a drop down in pairings, Miller's ice time and his confidence - which go hand-in-hand - have been rising. Restored back to playing with Jacob Trouba, Miller was a beast last night against the Penguins. Matched up against Sidney Crosby, Miller more than held his own while playing over 21 minutes. If he can continue to develop, cognizant that defenseman's growth is not linear, New York really has something here.

Negatives:

1) Blueline play and pairings - for the love of all that is holy, stop ceding the goddamn blue line. Change the strategy, as it continues to keep killing the team. The third goal against was because Jack Johnson, more on him later, backed off, allowing the Pens to carry play inside the left faceoff dot, creating the opportunity.
New York showed an inability to close out the game. A bad penalty late in the second penalty with the Blueshirts having all the momentum by Kevin Ronney resulted in a goal when Ryan Lindgren pushed the puck in his own net with his glove. Then the third goal was a break down by Johnson and ADA, but also by Zib who allowed Teddy Blueger to get inside position.

2) Passengers up front - Zib, Chris Kreider and Ryan Strome, despite what coach David Quinn said, all showed little. Zib may still not be 100 percent but that is no excuse, while Kreider has been mostly invisible. Strome and Artmei Panarin have yet to recapture the chemistry they had last year. In addition, Alexis Lafreniere has yet to score, though he is inching closer, though I also don't think he was great Friday.

With Chytil and Kakko rolling - despite my view that the team needs to build chemistry by keeping pairings together - I might move them on a line with Panarin. Put Strome on with PDG and Kreider with Laf sticking with Mika and playing Buch on the right side. I don't love shifting again, but Strome is giving nothing and Kreider little, so a change may be needed.

3) Quinn - credit to him for playing Kakko and Chytil more, though that should have happened in the second period. Major points against for not going with Chytil in the shootout over DeAngelo, even though ADA was 3-for-7 in his career and Chytil was next in line. Go Chytil third, Kakko fourth and then ADA if need be. Play the hot hand.

I don't care if Jacques Martin likes Johnson and has the ear of management, play Brendan Smith with ADA. Johnson was brutal on the first and third goals and has been on the ice I believe for four goals this year. Smith is so much better than him and the advanced metrics bear this out. Make the change now.

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