I was at the Rangers-Islanders game so I did not have the luxury of reviewing the game with the DVR, or seeing detailed replays of the game; so bear with me all.
The Rangers did not get beat by the Islanders tonight; they got beat by themselves. Sloppy defense was the achilles heal in this game along with poor decisions. If you watch the game again notice the inability of the Rangers in clearing their crease of Islander players throughout the game. Lundqvist was forced to make saves through traffic numerous times, and got beat three times because of it. If you rewind to the end of the first period you will see that the goal by Brendan Witt was because of the Rangers inability get the puck out of the zone, and because of all the traffic in Lundqvist’s crease. Witt was also left unmarked, and was given all the time in the world to place the puck where he desired. At the time this made the game 2-2 giving the Islanders momentum going into the second period.
Now before I go on exploiting the Rangers weaknesses any further let me first mention that Jagr looked great in the first period. Injured or not he completely undressed the Islanders defense at one point in the first period creating a scoring chance. He also earned a nice assist on Straka’s goal, and scored one of the sweetest goals I have ever seen with the help of Straka and Nylander. Straka also looked good in his own zone making some solid defensive plays. He is really establishing himself as a good 2-way foward.
Now to continue on the third goal by the Islanders came on a delayed penalty. The Rangers got very lazy, and did not work hard enough to get possesion of the puck to draw the play dead. Instead the Islanders worked to put bodies in front of Lundqvist to screen the netminder of the puck.
To make matters worse the Rangers struggled to adapt to the Islanders blue line trap. If you review the second period you will see one of Nolan’s coaching defensive tactics of the blue line trap. To me it is more of a filter. You will see that one player is sent to the neutral zone to forecheck the Ranger with the puck while the other players stand at the blue line forcing the Rangers to rush into the zone offsides, or to lose possesion to the ever alert “filtering” defense. The Rangers fell into the trap throughout the second period by continuing their attempt in rushing through the trap. This tactic fails because there it is not enough room to rush through without making a pass from east to west and vice versa. The attempts to pass are also futile because of easy poke checks. Even if the pass is made the pass recipient is met with an Islander standing him up at the blue line which 9 times out of 10 causes an offsides, or turnover. To be effective against this trap the Rangers needed to dump and chase. Because the Islanders were standing at the line a simple dump would force them to turn their backs to get to the pucl. In that instance a Ranger could rush to retrieve the puck while his teammates could have enough time to set up in the zone. The only line that used this tactic was the third line, and that is not the line you want to depend on for offense.
To the Rangers credit they made some good outlet passes from their own defensive zones resulting in odd man rushes towards the Islanders net minder Dipietro. To Dipietro’s credit he played a strong game. (I hate saying that). Marcel Hossa also looked very strong tonight as he threw some nice body checks, and caused turnovers by the Islanders.
The Rangers turned the tide in the opening stages of the third period with a sneaky goal by Brendan Shannahan. Jagr made a nice feed and Shannahan buried it. This is also the moment where the Rangers blew the opportuinity to take advantage of the momentum swing.
Jagr had a defensive lapse in his own zone as he left Kozlov completely unmarked for an easy goal right after he recieved a crisp pass from Robitaille. If that wasn’t enough the Rangers then threw a blind pass which was intercepted by Sillinger for a breakaway goal. My gripe with the play is not only the turnover, but the fact that the Ranger defenseman (couldn’t see who it was) who was closely behind Sillinger neglected to take a “good” penalty. In cases where a player has a partial breakaway it is not a bad idea to take a penalty in order to take away the socring opportunity. Instead he just chased Sillinger, and neglected to plow him into the ice after the initial shot was saved by Lundqvist. Sillinger was robbed on the initial shot, but was then given enough time to shoot in his rebound instead of being knocked into next week. Bad defensive play; very weak decision making.
The Rangers offense then turned invisible for the rest of the night as they failed to capitalize on 2 powerplay opportunities in the final 5 minutes of the game. Prucha had a shakey game missing on a couple of quality scoring chances. I also have a gripe with Aaron Ward who was sloppy on defense, and the referees who missed plenty of Islander penalties, and made a few questionable calls. Islanders 5, Rangers 3. _X_