The New York Rangers needed a good defensive showing tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. For the first two periods, despite some sloppiness, it looked like that was what they were going to get. Then with the game tied at one in the third period, the Avalanche would net two goals in under thirty seconds to go up 3-1, and send the Rangers home with yet another frustrating loss.
For the first three games, despite their lackluster defense, the Rangers were getting solid goal scoring. However, with Marian Gaborik out with a shoulder injury, keeping up the pace that allowed them to score 13 goals in three games was not going to be easy. The Rangers are also missing Chris Drury after he re-injured himself in Friday’s home loss to Toronto, and Vinny Prospal, who has missed all but one preseason game and will be out the next six weeks, along with Drury.
The Avalanche got on the board first, with eight minutes to go in the first, when Chris Stewart would deflect a John Michael Liles shot from the point on the powerplay. Liles now leads the NHL in assists with eight. John Tortorella would call a timeout minutes later, with the Rangers skating in circles. The team would settle down, and then Alex Frolov would score his first of the season with under two minutes to go in the period. He came down in a two-on-one rush with Marc Staal, and he tried to pass the puck over in the crease, but it bounced in off an Avalanche defender to tie the game 1-1.
In a spurt of team toughness, Michael Del Zotto would attempt to scrap with T.J Galliardi, after he checked Dan Girardi, but the referees separated the two before punches could be thrown. Galliardi would get a boarding penalty while Del Zotto got two minutes for roughing. But the team toughness would end there, as Henrik Lundqvist was run into several times tonight. The Rangers promised that they would not stand for that this season like they did last year. Through four games this season, that promise has been an empty one. Maybe Derek Boogaard should have gotten more than 2:04 in ice time tonight.
After a scoreless and uneventful second period, that saw three Jekyll and Hyde like powerplays, the Rangers headed into the third period, sporting their best defensive effort of the season.
There would be a slow start to the end frame, but then the Avalanche would net two goals in the span of 26 seconds to take a 3-1 lead, and seal the deal for the Rangers. Chris Stewart would get his second of the game and fifth of the season, while Daniel Winnik would get his second of the season.
The Rangers went 0-5 on the powerplay tonight, something that definitely contributed to the loss. They looked really good on some, and awful on others. Both Michal Rozsival and Dan Girardi hit the post from the point, leaving juicy rebounds in front that the Rangers could not tee up. Rozsival really needs to shoot more, because when he does he creates chances, but unfortunately, he chooses to shoot all to often when there is a man on him, and passes when he is wide open.
Derek Stepan would get his first NHL assist tonight, on the Frolov goal. He too has remained quiet since his opening night breakout. Like I said after that game, I am not expecting him to be a star this season, but I would still pencil him in for 15-20 goals.
The Rangers are now 0-1-1 on home ice, with both performances being anything but grand. For a team that struggled on home ice last season and wanted to get better this time around, this is not the start they wanted. The Rangers will now travel to Toronto for a rematch with the Maple Leafs on Thursday. I want to see the offense we saw in the first three games, as well as better defense and some actual team toughness. Colby Armstrong should have to answer for his check that sent Gaborik to the sidelines for 2-3 weeks. If the Rangers choose to do nothing, then this will be the same team we saw last year—one that consistently gets tossed around like a bunch of rag dolls.
Photo credit: AP