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Rangers drop second straight, 4-1 to Flyers, face Isles on Saturday

April 12, 2024, 11:56 AM ET [305 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers played their second straight stinker of a game Thursday against the Flyers. Facing another desperate team, New York was unable to generate much and allowed Philly to score off broken plays, odd man rushes and breakaways, the latter two a staple of the Flyers this year and a major area of weakness for New York all season. The Blueshirts failed to match their opponents’ intensity, and the end result was a 4-1 loss at MSG that look and felt way worse than the final score.

“I don't think we made good decisions," Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I don't think the urgency was there to pick up the rush the way we needed to on the way back into our zone, coming into D-zone coverage. That was definitely an issue where they scored goals. We knew that there were a high rush team. They've generating a lot lately, even inside of where they've been in the last 10 games."

Tuesday, a flat first period was the culprit in the 4-2 loss to the Isles. Yesterday, other than a few stretches, one in the first and one to start the third, New York looked flat and unmotivated. Philly came in having lost eight in a row, outscored 42-18, and hanging by their fingernails to playoff hope. You would have hoped that the possibility of clinching the division and Eastern Conference and possibly the President’s Trophy would have been enough of a carrot and motivator to play with passion and intensity. We all saw that clearly was not the case last night as the Rangers were outhustled, out efforts and outplayed to the point where they were rightly booed off the ice.

“We want to end on a high note," Ryan Lindgren said. "We just want to be playing good hockey and feeling good about ourselves going to playoffs."

None of what Lindgren said is the case right now. After Sunday’s win over Montreal, New York was on a roll. We all knew that the Islanders would be pumped up for the game and come out flying. How you don’t match their intensity and readiness is beyond me. Maybe the Rangers thought the Flyers would be a push over after their recent struggles. That might have been the case had they’d grabbed an early lead, but Samuel Ersson looked like Bernie Parent to start the game, and Philly gained confidence from that. Once that occurred, they were the aggressor, which should not have been the case.

Even-strength scoring has been an enigma all year and the struggles were very evident the last two games. The ESPN article highlighted this and New York has done little to debunk what was written the last 120 minutes of hockey. Good special teams and a goaltending can carry you so far. You need to score at 5x5 and match your opponents’ intensity to win. The league has too much parity to just coast as the team did the last two games.

"I thought one line was able to generate," Laviolette said. "They were able to stay in the offensive zone and create. But as a team, as a whole, we didn't generate enough. We didn’t get to the hard areas and they were quick to defend. We weren't quicker. They were a little heavier in the battles, and we weren’t heavy enough. The offense was not where we wanted it to be."

Despite all this, and I will go into what I would do next, the Rangers still controls their own destiny. Dallas’ 3-0 loss to the Jets keeps them one behind New York with two games remaining for the overall #1 seed in the league. Win the next two and they can’t be passed. Carolina and Boston remain three points behind but each now have a game in hand. An easy path to first in the division and conference with a win the last two games has been tossed away. If New York wins out, a tough task as one game is Saturday at home against an Isles team who can taste a playoff berth, then they win the division and conference. If they, and fall back, we will view it as a collapse and a major failing with a 2-3 match up against the Islanders the likely prize.

Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller were brutal last night again. Erik Gustafsson was not much better. The D as a whole stunk matched only by the poor play of the 12 forwards. Zac Jones should be in the lineup Saturday, plain and simple. Pair Jones with Trouba and have Braden Schneider skated with Miller. I know what the advanced metrics say, but Schneider and Miller showed a chemistry that seems to be lacking when Miller is paired with Trouba. Let Jones rush the puck, which is his major strength, and have Trouba as the more defensive member of the pairing.

Offensively they need a jolt. Garrett Hathaway almost caused a major injury with his kick to Jonathan Quick’s head. New York attempted to retaliate, led by Barclay Goodrow, who got a second penalty at the end of second period for instigating, but it was the right play. The push back was mostly fine but it did little to ignite the team. I am not saying if Matt Rempe played, it would have made a difference. But I also don’t think Hathaway would have been running around as if he did if that was the case. Rempe gives the team and arena a boost. He needs to play smart and straddle the edge of aggression and stupidity, not an easy task. Jonny Brodzinski has given the team little the last few games. Sit him and re-insert Rempe to see if that kickstarts the team’s engine.

I don’t think Laviolette makes other major changes. Jack Reslovic is not working out but moving Kaapo Kakko, who was robbed of a goal last night, up is likely not the right answer. The Artemi Panarin line is fine, as Alexis Lafreniere hit the post in a shot that could have changed the tide of the game, same with Panarin early in the second period versus the Islanders. I would leave the third line as is. You could see Jimmy Vesey moved up again, but Roslovic is miscast for the fourth line, unless they try him on the third and shift Will Cuylle back to the fourth line. The other option is to healthy scratch him again, move Vesey to his spot and insert Rempe in his place.

Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider need to find their game 5x5. The power play production is nice, but at even strength, they look lost. I honestly done care who the right winger is, it’s somewhat immaterial. Two of your highest paid and supposedly best players need to find a score to regardless of who is to the right of them.

Whatever Laviolette tries, unless the team plays with more urgency, edge and passion, it’s not going to matter. Everything they would want to end the regular season properly is right in front of them. The question is will they and can they take it?

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