Blueshirts Hope to Get Back on Track in Dallas

The Rangers are in Dallas tonight to take on another good Western Conference team when they skate against the Stars.

The game is the second of two regular-season meetings between the teams. At MSG in December, Dallas beat the Rangers in a shootout, 2-1. It was the most complete game played by an opponent on the season, as the Blueshirts were under siege for most of the night and the event was extended to the shootout only by the spectacular play of netminder, Ondrej Pavelec.

The Stars are currently in the first wild-card spot in the West and have won two consecutive games. The Rangers continue to stay in the middle of the Eastern wild card hunt despite notching just one victory in their last six games. Getting their game rectified sooner than later needs to be a priority as the regular season clock continues to tick down.

[Watch Rangers-Stars on MSG & MSG GO]

In Nashville on Saturday night, a very good Predator team beat the Rangers, 5-2. Coming within a goal twice in the third period, the Blueshirts were unable to protect that momentum by giving up a goal on the ensuing shift. It was a battle most of the night to create chances and getting within striking distance only to quickly succumb, not once, but twice was disheartening.

An egregious elbow to the head of Jimmy Vesey will cost Nashville’s Filip Forsberg three games due to suspension despite there being no penalty called on the play. That non-call infraction came 20 seconds after Marc Staal was drilled into the boards by, “an off-his-feet charge,” compliments of Alexei Emelin. No penalty was called on that play either.

While there is a case to be made that Staal happened to be in the wrong position at the wrong time, there was absolutely no excuse for the non-call on Forsberg as the play occurred in open ice when Vesey had the puck. Like players, officials are going to have off nights and this officiating crew had an off night. That being said, no penalty call on either play was inexcusable and while the after-the-fact suspension to Forsberg sends a message, one team was competitively compromised as a result of poor officiating. On this night, that compromised team happened to be the Rangers.

There will always be a need for a Player Safety department in the NHL as this game is one that encourages physicality and is played on a surface that is surrounded by boards. There will always be a debate about the efficiency of the process and the consistency of sentencing. But until the player, his coaching staff and management take proper responsibility and ownership of egregious head-shots the process will be what it is. Taking ownership means not just when an opponent delivers the blow but also when a teammate delivers the blow.

Looking the other way, alibiing for the infraction, calling out the league’s process as a “joke” and letting one off the hook just because it was one of “our” guys who did the damage does nothing to help. On a very simple level does a suspended Forsberg help the Predators in their next three games? The suspension coming as a result of hit delivered by Forsberg damages his reputation, compromises his team, and hurts a league that is trying to get things right. Let alone, the potential long-term damage inflicted upon Vesey. It is about taking responsibility and not pointing fingers. Isn’t it?

[Watch Rangers-Stars on MSG & MSG GO]

Keys

1. 5 v 5

For the better part of the first half of the season, the Rangers were a pretty good team while playing five-on-five. Recently not so as they have been outscored 7-0 while playing at even strength. Given the amount of the game played at even strength, this differential needs to be better.

2. Score First

Goals, as noted, have been difficult to come by particularly when you are chasing a score. Getting that first goal will allow a little breathing room and make it a little easier to hunker down.

3. Hunker Down

With Vesey and Staal out of the lineup tonight that makes five regulars missing. The lack of NHL talent necessitates a defend-at-all-cost mentality and hunkering down will be key.

[Watch Rangers-Stars on MSG & MSG GO]

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.