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Game 19: Boston turns the tables, outplays and efforts New York

March 1, 2021, 7:54 AM ET [382 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers came out flat and somehow got flatter than a coke bottle left unopened for three days in their 3–1 loss to the Bruins on Sunday. Give Boston some credit, as their performance was a 180-degree turn from Friday's contest, pressuring New York at every turn, allowing the Blueshirts minimal space to operate. The physical battles - not the fights or the hits - but the 1:1 scrums for the puck nearly all went the Bruins’ way, contributing largely to the defeat.

Coming into the game the question was if New York could find a way to win consecutive games for just the third time in 18 games. We all got our answer fairly early on, as Charlie Coyle lit the lamp. That goal came not long after Nick Ritchie “fell” on Alexandar Georgiev, cutting the goalie and eventually forcing him into the concussion protocol.

I put the term fell in quotes not because I definitely think the play was intentional, but because Ritchie elbowed Igor Shesterkin two weeks ago, so hard not to think a pattern might exist. Hardening you back to year’s past, New York experience a period when Henrik Lundqvist was run too often or dealt with contact around the create that went without a reaction from the team. I would have liked to see someone make Ritchie pay or at least think a bit before he did it again, even if this incident was unintentional. (Brendan Lemieux fighting Ritchie after the game ending buzzer doesn’t qualify as a reaction)

Yesterday’s loss brought to the fore the calls that coach David Quinn fails to get his team ready. That argument is valid to an extent. But Quinn and the players noted after Friday’s win that they expected the Bruins to come out and play a lot more physical with a much better effort. That means that everyone knew what they were facing. Plus you would have to have your head in the sand to not expect Boston to up their physical quotient, but more important, their attention to detail. New York failed to match that, which is in the players as much as it’s on the coach.

Mika Zibanejad continues to struggle. My view is that it’s COVID related, mirroring the prevailing thought. The question of why the team wouldn’t shut up down has been raised and is a valid argument. Maybe the hope is that playing through it will enable Mika to re-find his game or maybe the view is that with Filip Chytil, Kaako Kakko and Artemi Panarin out, sitting out Zib would be suboptimal. But his play has cratered so much and he looks so lost on the ice, that if it is post-COVID affects, sit him, and if not, then I have no idea what it is.

I didn’t have a problem going with Georgiev over Shesterkin, who ironically got the loss because he allowed the second goal of the game while Georgiev was in the protocol. That goal came about due to traffic in front of the net, which was the case all game, as the Bruins imposed their will throughout. Georgiev actually played a solid game. The first goal was a great shot by Coyle, though Georgiev reacted a bit slowly. The third, by Charlie McAvoy, also was aided by massive traffic in front of the net, as Georgiev never saw the puck. With the way Boston played and New York’s inability to get inside, staying out on the perimeter, the goalie was the least of their problems.

Larry Brooks reported that the Rangers are expected to bring back Vitali Kravtsov from Russia once the KHL playoffs, starting Wednesday, end. As Brooks noted: “Under his entry-level contract, Kravtsov is in for a cap charge of $925,000 plus an $800,000 bonus package. The Rangers should have enough room in another couple of weeks for Kravtsov as long as injured parties return sooner rather than later and further injuries do not occur that would force the team to keep a bloated roster.” Now, who sits - we all know who we like to sit - when the roster is fully healthy, and if room can also be created for Morgan Barron, on a similar contract, remain to be seen.

Brooks added, Kaapo Kakko missed his fourth straight game while on the COVID protocol list for the ninth consecutive day. Kakko is the only player in the league still on the COVID list, so I would think it’s doubtful he plays Tuesday. Filip Chytil, who could be a go for Tuesday’s Garden match against the Sabres, missed his 14th straight since sustaining what is believed to be a broken hand in Pittsburgh on Jan. 24. Maybe if he is back, Zib sits, though I don’t think that occurs.

Anthony Bitetto, a healthy scratch for the second straight game Sunday, has played nine games since his Feb. 1 promotion from the taxi squad. The defenseman would need waivers in order to be returned to the taxi squad starting Tuesday. That latter sentence and dip in his play lately are the two likely reasons for his scratch.

The Rangers get Buffalo on Tuesday and New Jersey in Thursday. A loss to the Sabres, well you can fill in the blanks. The Devils will be tougher, as New Jersey seems to have New York’s number a bit, maybe because Lindy Ruff is there. A pair of wins can be had, but if the team plays as they did Sunday, the results could be the same.

Getting these two will be critical. The contest at the Garden on Tuesday is New York’s 13th home game in 20 contests. Following that game, the Blueshirts embark on a six-game trip including two matches apiece at New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Boston.

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