A hangover following a night out is normal, but lasting over two days isn’t.
Following the Rangers’ 5-2 loss to Chicago Henrik Lundqvist said, “there should not be a hangover from the Winter Classic, at all.”
But it couldn’t be clearer that this team was still punch drunk from its’ euphoric victory over Buffalo at Citi Field.
And Head Coach Alain Vigneault’s statement, “you have to give credit to Chicago, they played a good game,” rings hollow. Yes Vigneault said his team’s execution was poor and they, “fed Chicago’s transition game. And got what we deserved.”
But it’s time to stop giving credit to the other team and then admitting your mistakes.
Chicago was quicker to the puck tonight, but they didn’t do anything so spectacular that the 7th Avenue Skaters should have been overwhelmed by them.
Both teams played a sloppy first period and while the Blackhawks drew first blood, the Rangers did well to come back exactly two minutes later.
Nick Holden took full advantage of a great pass from Paul Carey and a perfect screen by Jesper Fast to tie the game at one.
It was one of the few plays that the Blueshirts actually executed well.
Chicago struck back in the second period when Marc Staal was pushed — some will say cross-checked — from behind and slid through the crease into Lundqvist’s net; pushing the puck across the goal-line in the process.
But Chicago’s 2-1 lead again didn’t last long.
The Rangers were gifted a five-on-three power-play for 24 seconds, courtesy of a delay of game penalty by Blackhawks’ netminder Jeff Glass.
When you get a five-on-three opportunity you have to score. And the Blueshirts did; thanks to Mika Zibanejad’s first goal since returning from his concussion in the middle of December.
Chicago outshot the Rangers 26-14 through two periods; yet they headed into the final 20 minutes tied. Clearly the Blackhawks weren’t playing that great of a game.
Then came the third period and the Rangers’ problems were on full display.
They lacked energy and looked like they were trying to skate through quicksand — outside of a few brief glimmers of hope.
They had defensive breakdowns that allowed Chicago to do whatever it wanted with the puck.
Marc Staal valiantly defended a two-on-one odd man rush; but it morphed into a three-on-two and his indecisiveness cost the team.
Patrick Sharp took great pleasure in having a wide-open shot; sailing it past Lundqvist for the tie-breaking score.
Two empty-net goals — one each from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane — put the Rangers out of their misery; giving Chicago the 5-2 win.
BLUESHIRT BULLET POINTS
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Blueshirts successfully killed off the only penalty called against them. And recorded a power-play goal for the second straight game. The penalty-kill has been a strength all season and the power-play is rounding back into form. Perhaps better times lay ahead.
HIS MAJESTY: This game was not lost by Henrik Lundqvist; it was lost by his teammates. Lundqvist made another 30 saves, meaning he has recorded 30 or more saves in eight straight games; a career-high streak.
FOURTH-LINE=FIRST-LINE: The Rangers’ best unit of late has been their fourth-line; something that was apparent early on tonight. They started the game with energy and eventually tallied the Blueshirts’ first goal. Looks like they deserve to play more than 10-12 minutes per night.
The Rangers face Derek Stepan and the Coyotes Saturday (Jan. 6) at Gila River Arena. Game time: 8 p.m. ET. Broadcast: MSG Network.
The Blueshirts are 40 games into their season. Yet they look like they’re still in training camp; showing up, getting some work in and leaving without putting in a full 60 minute effort.
You can count on one hand the number of times the Rangers have played a “full 60 minute effort” this season.
A full hand out of 40 games! That’s not acceptable. Not for a team that opened the season with Stanley Cup aspirations.
The signs were there when the Blueshirts started out 3-7-2. And even though their annual November surge allowed the Rangers to climb into a playoff spot, the trouble resurfaced throughout December.
It’s now January, when are the “Real Rangers” going to show up? Because if these are the Real Blueshirts then forget about retooling on the fly; it’s time for a full on rebuild.