Some things just do not change and for the New York Rangers, their inability to close out games continues to hurt them.
Thursday night, the New York Rangers game against the rival Islanders was the typical matchup between the two teams — high scoring and fast-paced. Something else that is pretty common for the Blueshirts also happened — they surrendered a two-goal lead.
After scoring two quick goals, the Islanders quickly answered back with two of their own and would win the game 7-5 thanks to an Anthony Beauvillier hat-trick. This ended the Rangers point streak at seven games and was the seventh straight loss to their foes from Long Island.
When was the last time the Rangers gave up a two-goal lead? Not too long ago.
Saturday at Nationwide Arena, the Rangers got themselves a 3-1 lead against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second period. They would give up that lead just over three minutes later and the Jackets would then grab the lead. The Blueshirts would win the game in the shootout but could have made things a lot easier on themselves with some killer instinct.
When was the previous time they gave up a two-goal lead before that game and failed to put the opponent away? The night before.
Last Friday night at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit the Rangers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, giving up a game-tying goal late in the game
That time it came at the hands of Detroit Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou, with just over two minutes left in the game. It would not stop there as Dylan Larkin would score the game-winning goal in overtime with just six seconds remaining, ending the Blueshirts winning streak at four. This has been a trend for the Rangers the past couple weeks dating back to the California road trip, where they gave up goals with under a minute left each game.
Yes, this team is in a rebuild with some fresh young players, but this has been an issue that dates back to the 2014 Stanley Cup run and ultimately was the demise of the last Rangers team to make the playoffs.
Everyone knows the story from the 2014 Stanley Cup run. In Game 1 they took an early two-goal lead but could not put away the Los Angeles Kings and fell in overtime. Game 2 they had three two-goal leads but gave up three straight unanswered and in overtime yet again. Finally Game 5, when they were on life support and could not protect the lead to force a Game 6.
The 2015 playoffs only saw one instance like this, Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers gained yet another two-goal lead but then gave up four straight to the Bolts, the Rangers would force overtime but would lose in the end and then lose the series in seven games. The next season this was not so much an issue in the playoffs because the Blueshirts had few leads in their first-round defeat from the Pittsburgh Penguins but, the regular season saw a lot of goals given up with the goalie pulled and late in games.
2017 Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Ottawa Senators was more of the same. This issue reared its head in the previous series against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2, but wouldn’t show its face until the matchup against the Sens. Game 1 with less than five minutes left, Erik Karlsson scored the game winner. Game 2 of this series was almost an exact clone of Game 2 of the 2014 Cup series, three two-goal leads but this time the tying goals game when the Sens had the goalie pulled. Game 5 saw another two-goal lead disappear, the Rangers would get their lead back but once again gave it up when Ottawa had the extra attacker. The Blueshirts fell for the final time in Game 6.
This lack of killer instinct has been plaguing the Rangers for the past five years, and it is still plaguing them now. Now, this is clearly not David Quinn’s fault, this has been something the team has struggled to solve for years and he just got involved. Quinn has done a good job as the head coach in this short time, but to further solidify his status as the Rangers coach for the future he needs to nip this in the bud as soon as possible.
The most frustrating thing about this failure to close out games in this season is that often times it is not the young kids out there being scored on. Justin Abdelkader’s goal to make it a one-goal game on Friday came as the result of Brendan Smith getting easily pickpocketed. Smith also allowed a lot of room on Alec Martinez’s game-winning goal on Oct. 28. Speaking of that game, the Kings were allowed back in it because of undisciplined penalties like too many men on the ice and slashing by Cody McCleod.
This does not let the kids off the hook, Pionk certainly should not have allowed Athanasiou so much room on the left wing to allow him to blow past the defense. The new Rangers should not be continuing the bad trends of the old Rangers. But, these types of mistakes are expected out of young players and rookies, not the veterans with seasoned NHL experience and have dealt with this numerous times in the past.
The whole point of a rebuild is to, well, rebuild, start from scratch and make something great. But the Rangers took with them what arguably was the worst quality of the teams that came before them. Fans can point out two questionable calls by the officials all they want, it does not change the fact that the Rangers once again squandered a chance to bury their opponent.
This is not a wakeup call, the Blueshirts are way beyond that point. If the Rangers want to be good for the future then solving this issue should be a high priority on their list.