Senators Chase Lundqvist, Top Rangers

By Matthew Blittner
Special Contributor to MSGNetworks.com

A winter cold — sneezes and a cough — often takes time and patience before you get rid of it and feel better.

One could say this explains the rebuilding Rangers these days. And “Exhibit A” is their 6-3 loss to the Senators Saturday afternoon at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Rejuvenating a lineup is all part of the process, as the Blueshirts high-command prepares for the trade deadline. And a quick check of the roster yields several new names: Neal Pionk, John Gilmour, Ryan Sproul, Tony DeAngelo and Brandon Halverson.

As the Rangers continue to add new players — mainly prospects — to the mix, some growing pains are to be expected.

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The “leader” of the young defensemen revolution is Brady Skjei — a second-year player who has ascended to the top D-pairing while captain Ryan McDonagh is sidelined.

Against Ottawa, the youthful defense corps was a minus-seven; courtesy of goals by Mark Stone, Johnny Oduya, Matt Duchene, Derick Brassard, Thomas Chabot and Magnus Paajarvi.

The Rangers’ attempted to even the ledger with goals from Michael Grabner (twice) and Mika Zibanejad. But they were unsuccessful.

After the game, Skjei owned up to the defense’s shortcomings: “we have to do a better job of protecting our house.”

WHAT WENT WRONG

1. DEFENSIVE MISCUES:

All day long the Blueshirts mixed up their defensive assignments. And after Ottawa’s first goal — on the first shot of the game — MSG Network’s man between the benches, John Giannone said, “there’s plenty of frustration on the bench right now.”

2. ROYAL FLUSH:

For the fourth time in nine starts, King Henrik found himself pulled from the game before the final horn sounded. This time, Lundqvist was charged with five goals on 27 shots. But before you rush to judgment, remember this. The Blueshirts’ skaters were caught out of position on each goal.

Afterwards, Lundqvist said, “there were a few plays where I felt, maybe I could have done something more. But there were also plays where I felt we needed to protect the middle better.”

3. DEUCES WILD:

Six of the Rangers’ skaters — J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Jimmy Vesey, Pionk, David Desharnais and Skjei — finished the game with a minus-two or worse. And three of the forwards (Fast, Desharnais, Vesey) came in at a combined minus-12.

POSITIVE TAKEAWAYS

1. POWER-PLAY EVERY DAY:

The Blueshirts’ power-play went one-for-two on the day; extending its’ hot streak to 15-for-60 over their last 21 games.

2. PAPA JOHN’S PIZZA:

For the 31st time in 59 games this season, the Rangers lit the red light three times; triggering a 50% discount from the popular pizza chain.

3. RETURNING TROOP:

Pavel Buchnevich’s return from concussion symptoms was lost in the outcome of the game. But the Russian-sniper managed to record 14 minutes and 42 seconds of ice time; tallying an assist to boot.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The game wasn’t pretty. But that’s to be expected when a team is attempting to bring in an influx of new blood.

For the young players, games like this are about learning as much as possible.

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