The Rangers were likely due for a stinker and we got one yesterday at MSG. New York came out flat- and other than a brief spurt in the third period - their performance didn’t get much better or engaged. The Blueshirts fell 5-1 to the Sabres, though that was the least of their concerns, as Kaapo Kakko was lost, potentially to a serious injury, during the contest.
1) Kakko injury: if you watch the play, and especially Kakko’s reaction, you can see it looked back. Kakko was battling defenseman Erik Johnson behind the Buffalo net when his skate got caught and his leg bent behind him. He immediately clutched his knee and writhed in extreme pain, then went to the locker room without putting any weight on the leg.
As Vince Mercogliano noted, in the short-term, the Rangers (15-4-1) could roll out 11 forwards and seven defensemen for Wednesday's game. The seventh defenseman could be Connor Mackey or Adam Fox, as Fox is eligible to return from LTIR on Wednesday. If the news ends up being as dire as some of us expect - a torn ligament or two - New York could place Kakko on LTIR as that type of injury would be serious enough for him to miss the minimum of 10 games and 24 days. If they follow this approach, it would create $2.1 million (the equivalent of Kakko's average annual value) in LTIR pool money
The probable immediate call up would be Hartford captain Jonny Brodzinski. The 30-year-old forward has been red hot and leads the AHL with 25 points (11 goals and 14 assists) in 16 games played. New York could slot Brodzinski on the fourth line and move either Jimmy Vesey or Barclay Goodrow into Kakko’s third line right wing spot.
Let’s discuss the two white elephants in the room. First, Patrick Kane. Until Kane signs somewhere, he will continue to be mentioned / linked to the Rangers. Kakko’s cap hit and room created by placing on LTIR might allow Kane to be signed, though that dollar figure may still be below what he wants. The rumored lack of interest in Kane, at least as reported by Larry Brooks, is possibly no longer the case due to the Kakko’s injury. (Update: per Chris Johnson, Kane signing with the Red Wings, so this is now a moot point.
Second, Brennan Othmann. Do not rush Othmann. He would benefit from additional time at Hartford. Let him develop there and view him as a January type promotion, not now. New York has been burned by rushing players. Don’t make the same mistake here.
2) Lack of energy: if you want some excuses, here you go. New York was playing their sixth game in 10 days, fourth game in the last six days, including back-to-back 1pm starts. They were on the road in New Jersey, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Philly the first four contests. Now that that’s out of the way, just chalk it up as a poor effort, toss it out, wipe the slate clean and be ready for Wednesday.
3) One overturned goal and one robbed goal - despite the poor effort, the Rangers still were in the game until late in the third period. In the first with the game scoreless, Will Cuylle hit the puck with either his elbow, wrist or back of his hand which was called a hand pass overturning a Blake Wheeler goal. In the third, with the score 2-0, Vesey was robbed by UPL. He lifted the puck but not enough as UPL got the shaft of his stick on it to deflect it wide. That puck goes in and if Mike Zibanejad still scores on the PP and it’s a tie game.
4) Incompetent refereeing: we have talked a lot about how bad the refereeing has been this year. We saw prime examples 1 and 2 last night. A brutal interference call on Tyler Pitlick was followed by fictitious make up cross-check penalty on Zack Benson. Great job guys in the black and white, maybe next time, try and get the first call correct.
5) Bad game by K'Andre Miller - with the score 2-1, he was outmuscled by Casey Mittelstadt for the puck, leading to Alex Tuch’s second of the game and dagger tally. The team quit late, as they went through he motions the last minute of the contest, leading to Kyle Okposo’s marker. That may have been why Igor Shesterkin stormed off the ice, slamming his stick against the boards, after the final whistle.