For their first game after the all-star break the Rangers crossed the Hudson River to visit division foe New Jersey. The blueshirts came into the contest with a tenuous grasp on second place in the Metropolitan while the Devils sat just outside the playoff picture. The night was dominated by top notch goaltending as Schneider and Lundqvist both performed more than adequately enough for their teams to win. After 60 minutes the Devils inched ever closer to the wild card and only two points back of the second place Rangers in the very closely contested Metro. With both goalies stealing the show, here is a positive takeaway, a factor that contributed to the loss and something to look for going forward.
J.T. Miller continued his dominant streak of seven goals in seven games dating to mid-November. This impressive figure is also subject to scrutiny as he appeared to get a second goal in Buffalo that was never credit properly. Either way it is a welcomed run of sustained success for Rangers fans who had high hopes when the team spent a first-round pick to get Miller in 2011. His season totals are now a respectable 15 goals, 12 assists and 27 points. Also likely enjoying the scoring outburst is Alain Vigneault who has practiced what we can only hope had been tough love with Miller since he took over. He has scratched and sent Miller down a handful of times but it seems to have yielded success and if Miller keeps playing this way he can forget about going back to Connecticut.
The principal reason the Rangers came up short last night was their special teams. Things could not have gone much worse for the powerplay and penalty kill. The blueshirts had four opportunities with the man advantage and failed to score once or even register a shot on the first two chances. The powerplay has been inconsistent this season and at times looked totally disjointed. It seems that year in and year out this problem goes unfixed. Late in the game, with a sense of urgency, the Rangers managed to get some good powerplay chances only to be shut down by Schneider. Maybe the problem isn’t personnel but that the team needs to play with more urgency for three periods. Penalty killing was equally inadequate as the Rangers allowed the Devils to convert on both of their powerplays including giving up the game winning goal on a rare mistake from Ryan McDonagh. These were not isolated incidents as the team ranks 24th in powerplay and 25th in penalty kill.
As Rangers fans feared when they saw Kevin Klein on the ground in pain, the defenseman will be out indefinitely with a broken thumb. The injury was sustained on a check in the defensive zone in the final minutes Monday night. Klein was visibly in pain and taken to the locker room immediately. This loss could be devastating and puts a lot of pressure to fill the shoes on Dylan McIlrath. The team will hope Klein can return for the playoffs, with the current standings, they should also hope they will still be playing.
My name is Jason Bisnoff and I am a native New Yorker and currently work for the International New York Times. I have been published in the New York Daily News, Albany Times-Union, Metroland, The Nabe, Florence Magazine, 219 Magazine and previously did hockey writing for Hockey This Week.