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Blue Jackets celebrate Alexander Wennberg’s 1st period goal, courtesy of NHL.com

The schedule finally caught up to the Rangers, as they dropped the 2nd of back-back weekend games, losing to the Blue Jackets 5-2. The boys gave up the first goal of the game to Alexander Wennberg in only the 2nd minute of the game, and struggled to keep pace for the rest of regulation. The signs of fatigue could clearly be seen throughout the game, as the Rangers alternated between spurts of offensive pressure and horrible defensive play. The few bright spots on the night were Rick Nash’s great physical effort to tie the game at 1-1, a somewhat productive (albeit scoreless) powerplay late in the 3rd period, and a Jesper Fast goal at the death to reward a hardworking winger.

Quick Stats:

First Period Scoring-

  • 1:02 COLUMBUS GOAL Alexander Wennberg; Assists: David Savard, Oliver Bjorkstrand
  • 4:07 NEW YORK GOAL Rick Nash; Assists: Jimmy Vesey, Derek Stepan
  • 6:47 COLUMBUS GOAL (PP) Cam Atkinson; Assists: Sam Gagner, Zach Werenski

Second Period Scoring-

  • 9:47 COLUMBUS GOAL Alexander Wennberg; Assist: Oliver Bjorkstrand

Third Period Scoring-

  • 4:12 COLUMBUS GOAL Cam Atkinson; Assist: Brandon Dubinsky
  • 19:36  COLUMBUS GOAL Josh Anderson; Assists: Scott Hartnell, William Karlsson
  • 19:59 NEW YORK GOAL Jesper Fast; Assists: Marc Staal, Oscar Lindberg

Three Stars:

  1. Alexander Wennberg, CBJ: 2 Goals
  2. Cam Atkinson, CBJ: 2 Goals
  3. Sergei Bobvrosky, CBJ: 28 Saves, W

 

Impressions:

  • The Rangers definitely fought against a lack of energy from the moment the puck dropped. The first goal to Alexander Wenneberg at 1:02 in the first period is the kind of early goal that they had been prone to giving up earlier in the year. With how well Hank has been playing and, thus, how well the defense has a been playing, you have to wonder if playing 2 games in 2 nights and 4 games in 6 nights overall is the issue here. This speaks to the overall issue that the NHL has with all this time off. The league mandated bye week, coupled with the All-Star break, make for ridiculously condensed schedules for these teams. The only outcomes I can see for such a ludicrous schedule are injury-riddled rosters and tons of poor play, like we saw tonight.
  • You play to win the game! Former New York Jets coach once famously exclaimed that after being asked if he would tank the season for a better draft choice. That’s certainly the sporting attitude to have and I would NEVER want the Rangers to throw games, but this loss could prove to be advantageous for them. The loss allows the Blue Jackets to leapfrog the Rangers into third place and has the Blueshirts sliding back in to the first wild card spot. This means that, if the season ended today, the Rangers would have a first-round playoff match up against an Atlantic division team.  Of course, I want the Rangers to remain competitive and they have too many flaws to grow complacent, but hey, the occasional loss could be a good thing here.
  • Although the Rangers have been much better defensively, a lot has had to to with Henrik Lundqvist’s much improved play in net. The defense still has a few warts, notably their play in front of the net. They’re letting players waltz right into Hank’s crease without a hint of any pushback. This issue was most evident on the Blue Jackets’ 2nd and 5th goals. in the first instance, Dan Girardi did nothing to prevent Nick Foligno and Sam Gagne from crashing the net during the power-play resulting from a horrible roughing penalty on Adam Clendening. This poor sequence was followed immediately by a Cam Atkinson goal from the high slot. And on Columbus’ 5th goal of the night, Chris Krieder did not seem to even attempt to pick up Josh Anderson, as he scored from point-blank range. This is yet another example of the Rangers not being able to engage in the types of physical battles that will surely cost them in the playoffs.
  • Local guys have been killing the Rangers this week. First, New Caanan, CT-born Max Pacioretty leads the Canadiens to an overtime win, logging an assist and over 20 minutes. Then, Columbus winger and Greenwich, CT-born Cam Atkinson has a great night in front of his hometown family and friends, registering two goals. Atkinson is in the midst of a career year, and as a fellow Fairfield County guy, it’s pretty awesome to see guys like Pacioretty and Atkinson succeed and help to grow the sport in this part of the country. People don’t generally think of Connecticut as a hotbed of the sport when compared to Northern New England and the Midwestern Border States, but there’s some good hockey being played in this state at all levels and these guys are showing it.
  • There was some news on the injury front worth mentioning.  Pavel Buchnevich was scratched with the flu. Adam Clendening played a 3rd consecutive game, as Kevin Klein continues to deal with back spasms. Mika Zibanejad was hit in the arm with a puck in the last minute of the third period and skated off in a bit of pain. Let’s hope that all three will be available for the upcoming rematch with the first-place Capitals.
  • Let’s finish off this recap with a few positives from the game. Jimmy Vesey has had an up-and-down rookie season but he’s starting to score a bit more now that he’s off of the 4th line, with 3 points in the last 7 games. Tonight, playing with Stepan and Nash, he picked up a primary assist with a hard pass to set up Nasher’s goal in the first period. It was a quick play and showed that he wasn’t overthinking, just reading and reacting. The second bright spot I wanted to mention was the power-play we had late in the third. No, the Rangers didn’t score, but they did register 3 shots on goal, including a point-blank save by Bobrovsky on Chris Krieder. It wasn’t earth shattering but it was definitely something to build on, as the passing was quick and the puck was being taken to the net. Finally, I was thrilled with the rebound goal by Jesper Fast with  0.4 seconds left in regulation. He works hard night in and night out to get in on the forecheck, kill penalties, and finish checks, so its nice to see his name on the scoresheet. Unfortunately, he’s a guy that will probably go unprotected in the expansion draft and will be a tough player to lose.