Rangers Get Pushed Around in St. Louis

Second straight loss to team with physical, disciplined defense

When the Rangers' 4-1 loss to the Blues was over, Henrik Lundqvist met the media and shared his thoughts about what went wrong in St. Louis.

"We didn't have our best game but we were still in it, after the first two goals we battled back, I battled back, and it felt like we definitely had a chance, and then they get that lucky third one. We didn't have any puck luck tonight."

The third goal, which went in off Lundqvist's back after a deflection, was certainly a fluky one, but the Rangers didn't lost Thursday night because of puck luck. They lost because the Blues beat them in every physical battle across the course of the evening.

St. Louis outhit and outmuscled the Rangers for most of the game, which is why they could generate scoring chances while the Rangers continually lost the puck in transition to the Blues' zone.

No matter what John Tortorella tried -- benching Brad Richards, shuffling every forward line and defensive pairing -- nothing clicked for the second straight game.

Both the Stars and the Blues build their entire effort around physical, defensive philosophies and the Rangers offense couldn't do a thing against either one of them. It's a bit unexpected since conventional wisdom held that speedy teams would be the thorn in the Rangers' side this season, but it is the physical ones causing all kinds of problems.

While the Tortorella rant games like that elicit should make for great HBO viewing, it would be nice to see if the Rangers can do something to improve their chances against such teams. One such thing would be turning back to Sean Avery.

Let's be clear, swapping out Avery for Erik Christensen isn't the reason why the Rangers have lost two straight games. Players who play scant minutes on the fourth line don't decide outcomes.

That said, putting Avery and, if he's healthy, Mike Rupp in for Christensen and John Mitchell would give the Rangers a fourth line that can be physical and aggressive enough to create a little of that puck luck that Lundqvist mentions. Things aren't working as currently aligned, so it is time to tweak things to see if another approach yields more fruit.

Avery might not stop the Rangers from getting pushed around, but at least you know that he'll push back. After the last two games, that's enough to recommend him.

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.

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