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Penguins Have Rangers Number Once Again

Another loss to Penguins raises deadline pressure for Rangers

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    The Rangers didn't have much going for them on Tuesday.

    One of the many encouraging things about the way the Rangers have played this season is the way that they've dominated the Flyers and Bruins in head-to-head matchups.

    Having a clear leg up on two divisional rivals helps quiet some of the fears caused by the team's sputtering power play and lack of scoring punch up front because it is clear their style serves them well against quality opposition.

    But if you take the good from that, you've also got to acknowledge that their mojo just doesn't work against the Penguins.

    They dropped a second straight game to Pittsburgh Tuesday night and the 2-0 loss never felt quite that close because of the way the Penguins dictated the pace of the game from the opening faceoff.

    They were quicker, they possessed the puck for longer stretches and they never let the Rangers get comfortable in any of the three zones on the way to a win.

    If not for Henrik Lundqvist, the score would have been a lot more lopsided and a better reflection of just how one-sided the battle was between the skaters on both sides.

    Neither goal was really his fault as the first, by his MVP rival Evgeni Malkin, came after a terrible giveaway by Michael Del Zotto. The second was a slapper from the point on the power play with a man parked in front of Lundqvist's face.

    The Penguins had plenty of other chances that were almost that good, but the King was able to keep things close enough for the Rangers to turn their lack of early energy into a game-changing goal. Outside of Ryan McDonagh hitting a post in the third period, though, there wasn't much in the way of quality scoring chances from that side of the ice.

    That's two straight outings where the Penguins' speed and skill were more effective than the Rangers' grit, something that makes you wonder how a seven-game series between the two teams would go for the Rangers.

    Beyond that, it is now three straight mediocre outings for the Rangers with the trade deadline looming like Kilimanjaro in the distance.

    Naturally, that will lead to more questions about whether the Rangers will step up and pay the price necessary to grab Rick Nash from the Blue Jackets.

    It's hard to say how much of a difference he would have made in this game, although it wouldn't have hurt to get a player down near the goal instead of being as reliant on shots from the point as the Rangers were last night.

    But there's also reason to ask if the Rangers can really keep going with Steve Eminger and Anton Stralman as their last two defensemen when they were benched by John Tortorella in what was a one-goal game entering the third period.

    You could make an argument that bringing in Chris Kreider when Boston College finishes its season while shuffling some lines could boost the offense enough without Nash that acquiring a defenseman becomes a more pressing need.

    It feels clear right now that a serious run at the cup this season will require a move of some sort to bolster the current roster. Whether they choose to make that run and/or how they bolster the roster will be interesting to see, but it would be very surprising to see the team choose to simply ignore the glaring weaknesses between now and Feb. 27.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.