NEW YORK, NY – The Rangers six-game winning streak came to an end Wednesday night in Chicago in an ugly gabe for the Blueshirts that looked more like mid-October that their recent form. There were defensive lapses, bad goal-tending, and wasted scoring chances. The struggling Blackhawks easily brushed aside the Rangers who hadn’t played since Saturday night. Sometimes the worst thing for a winning streak is a break. And this break clearly hurt the team. The Rangers looked like they forgot how to play hockey. Now the Rangers will need to bounce back.
It will be interesting to see how Brendan Smith plays being back in the lineup tonight after getting acquainted with the healthy scratch list for the duration of the Rangers’ win streak. Alain Vigneault scratched him for the first win of the streak against the Las Vegas Golden Knights. After that, AV rode the hot hands and Smith hasn’t played a shift since.
The 28-yearold Smith just signed a 4-year, $17 million contract. That kind of money should buy you a top 4 defenseman. Smith hasn’t played that way so far this season. He’s taken bad penalties and his defensive play has been suspect at best. Tonight Smith will have to right the ship and solidify his place on the blue line. He has to play up to that $4.35 million cap. He should be able to play ahead of guys like Nick Holden. But Holden hasn’t been terrible lately. And that has kept Smith in the press box. Smith will play tonight so we’ll see if he can stay in the lineup for any period of time.
The Rangers will look to bounce back tonight against John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus has started the season well and they’ve got playoff aspirations. In a mediocre Metropolitan Division, they could just make the dance. The Devils sit atop the division (yes, those Devils) on 25 points. But they’re only 7-points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes in last place. By comparison the Tampa Bay Lightning are 18 points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres in the Atlantic Division.
Not may people think the Devils will still be leading the division come spring. But with nobody playing particularly well, anything can happen. In a normal season, the start the Rangers had to the season would have had them playing for draft picks by now. This year they’re still in the mix and have a very good shot at making the playoffs. The Penguins have played like they have a championship hangover, but one has to think that they’ll be near the top of the division with the inconsistent Capitals when it’s all said and done.
In the meantime, the Rangers need to keep winning games. Especially against division rivals. Two points tonight are crucial. The new faces in the Blueshirts seem to have settled in this season. And some stability with the lineup has helped on this winning run. Alain Vigneault shouldn’t tinker too much with the squad after Wednesday’s loss. Hopefully that poor performance was just a one off and the team gets back to playing like they did during the winning streak.
That it for me today. Enjoy the weekend and Lets Go Rangers!