Suddenly engineer Alain Vigneault‘s New York Rangers express has — at least temporarily — been moved to the local tracks.
Having lost on Friday in Columbus and last night 3-2 in a shootout at The Garden to Florida, the Blueshirts have little time to head to the Roundhouse for repairs.
They visit Pittsburgh tonight (Monday) where they’ll face Sidney Crosby and a Penguins club still smarting from a Saturday night shootout loss to the Sabres.
To return to the Express track, New York must fix a few flaws so far displayed during its mini-two-game slump.
And it all starts with replacing injured Mika Zibanejad, who suffered a broken left fibula in overtime and will miss 6-to-8 weeks. “It’s an opportunity for somebody else to get more ice time,” asserted coach Vigneault. “We are confident with our guys, whoever we decide to put in that spot will do the job for us.”
As for the other items of note, consider these:
THE OVERVIEW: Based on the Blueshirts overwhelming superiority right from the opening face-off and through the first period, the score should have been more like 4-0 than 1-0 on Chris Kreider‘s goal. James Reimer was both lucky and good to keep Florida in the game, although his club was significantly out-shot and out-chanced. In addition to Reimer’s excellence, the Rangers failure to convert chances enabled the Panthers to force the game to a shootout. In the end, the home club went 0-for-2 in the Skills Competition, while Florida went 2-for-2 for the victory.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- THE ZIBANEJAD INJURY: With Zibanejad out, now the Rangers depth will be tested. Vigneault is correctly philosophical when he concluded: “Every team has injuries and we don’t expect to be any different from anybody else.” The club claimed forward Matt Puempel off waivers Monday.
- POWER PLAY FAILURE: With a man — and two-man — advantage, the Blueshirts wound up going o-for-3. They struggled moving the puck with special difficulty setting up in the enemy zone. Conversion was the difference between winning and losing.
- SHUT OUT IN THE SHOOT OUT: Faced with his first shootout of the season coach Vigneault opened with the usually reliable Mats Zuccarello. The Mighty Mite’s attempt was defused by Reimer. Ditto for Number Two man Brandon Pirri. Neither sufficiently challenged the Cats goalie to make a save.
- STRIKING WHILE THE IRON WAS HOT: For two periods it appeared as if it only was a matter of time before the Blueshirts would bust out and take the two points. But they couldn’t put away a Florida club that was on the second of back-to-back games. Ergo: A second straight loss.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- THE DURABLE KING: Henrik Lundqvist appeared in his 700th career NHL game. He’s the fifth goaltender in league history who has appeared in at least 700 games with one franchise.
- CONNECTING KREIDER: With a laser-like drive, Kreider opened the scoring for New York in the first period and posted a plus-1 rating. Chris has registered a point in eight of 13 games in which he’s played — four goals, eight assists.
- MOSTLY DOMINATING: Despite the shootout loss, the Rangers had the advantage through most of the match. They had the better chances but not the better luck. There was no lack of effort and it was reflected in the number of good “looks” for the Blueshirts.
WHAT WE LEARNED:
- NOT TO WORRY: The tenor of this game was reminiscent of the Rangers first road game of the season at St. Louis. Despite losing to the Blues, Vigneault’s skaters clearly had the better of the play — but lost. Since then they’ve rebounded to become one of the NHL’s best clubs.
- NEED SPEED — PLUS: New York boasts one of the fastest — if not THE speediest teams in the NHL but a bit more grit might be needed as a supplement.
Against Florida, a bit more grit and grinding might have altered the result against what was a “lighthorse” team with few physical players.
WHAT THEY WERE SAYING:
- VIGNEAULT: “We had good opportunities in the first two periods, but lost some momentum in the third with the penalties we took.”
- LUNDQVIST (ON ALEKSANDER BARKOV’S SHOOTOUT GOAL THAT BARELY MADE IT OVER THE GOAL LINE): “I knew that it was a close call, but I didn’t have a good feeling. I thought I had it (the puck) and it would stop but it didn’t and just kept going. It’s frustrating to lose in the Shootout. I was not able to come up with the big saves there.”
- RYAN MCDONAGH: “We definitely had some good shots but Reimer saw a lot of them. We tried to get in front, get the second and third opportunities but they weren’t there as much.”
- KEITH YANDLE (ON HIS FORMER CLUB, THE RANGERS): “They are big and fast, and played hard. They have a good team.”
CONCLUSION AND NEXT GAME: The Rangers may have been the more dominant team during most of the night, but that was proven irrelevant when it came to the shootout. Now the Penguins visit New York tonight, 7 PM. TV– MSG Network. Sidney Crosby & Co. will provide a major test for AV’s lineup now that they must cope with the loss of an ace — Zibanejad.