The New York Rangers picked up another crucial two points and extended their win streak to four last night at home when they faced the New York Islanders for the last time this season. Last night’s win gives the Rangers the final advantage over the Islanders this season, as the Rangers win the season series over the Islanders three games to two. While the Rangers gathered the win, it was not an easy game to come out victorious in as the Islanders put up a great fight.
The first two periods of the game seemed to be going the Islanders way; if not for Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist continuing his hot streak, the game result may have gone the Islanders’ way. While the Rangers looked good at times, last night’s game exposed weaknesses that the team needs to address if they want to make a run for the Stanley Cup this season.
The Islanders’ dominance in the second period of last night’s game showed their skill and Rangers’ weaknesses, and was led by alternate captain, red hot Kyle Okposo. He has been one of the best players in the NHL this season, averaging over a point a game and 58 in total, also averaging close to a league leading 20:28 minutes per game as a forward this season. Okposo scored the Islanders’ only goal last night off a rebound during the Islander-dominated second period. The Islanders showed that they have what it takes to be a playoff contender during the second period last night, out-shooting the Rangers 19-6, and controlling most of the play throughout the period. The Islanders have played well at times throughout the season, resulting in their closeness in the standing despite some periods of losing streaks. Although at this point in the season, with less than 30 games left, the Islanders would need nothing short of a miracle to make the playoffs.
Although the Rangers did not look good through the first two periods, they came alive in the third just in time to take back control of the game and do what it took to win. Thanks to Lundqvist, the Rangers were still tied with the Islanders going into the third, and in position to take the win. While the top scorers for the Rangers have not been producing lately, the team has not skipped a beat, getting increased contribution from the third and fourth lines lately, helping them win games.
The Rangers need to step up their offense, and last night’s third period may be just the spark they need to get back into rhythm. The Rangers’ offense needs to step up at this point in the season and begin to dominate again, as they cannot expect their defense and goalie to play this well indefinitely. The only goal given up by the Rangers last night was on a play where defenseman Marc Staal gave up on the play letting his man go free as a result of being overworked and fatigued. While the first two lines for the Rangers have been struggling lately, not contributing to the offense as much as expected, they began to show up in the third period last night when Brad Richards scored his first goal in seven games, just his third point in that span.
If the Rangers want their success to continue, then their offense needs to take the high levels of pressure seen lately off their defense and goalie. While the Rangers have been playing superbly of late on defense, they have relied too heavily on Lundqvist to bail them out, something that he cannot continue forever. As the Rangers begin to give up more shots because of their lack of offense, Lundqvist will begin to allow more goals, as he can only make so many saves.
Hopefully, last night’s win was just what the Rangers needed to spark their goal scorers, and continue their success this season. If the Rangers can continue their dominance of late, while improving in all aspects, specifically on offense, then they can make a serious run during playoff time. For now, Rangers hockey is experiencing success and is fun to watch.