The New York Rangers have taken their first loss of the 2023-24 season by a score of 5-3. The Rangers had a solid first period, but quickly fell apart after entering the second. Following a dominant victory over Buffalo in their season opener, there were high hopes that the Rangers could remain undefeated. However, both fans and the Blueshirts were let down.
Physicality is still the Rangers’ weakest trait
The Rangers were able to dominate the Sabres in their season opener, beating Buffalo in both blocked shots and hits. It appeared that HC Peter Laviolette had made adjustments to the Rangers’ style of play, introducing a new era of aggressiveness, grit, and physicality. But that all seemed to crumble tonight against the Blue Jackets.
As soon as the Rangers faced a team that was willing to not only match them but surpass them physically, the Blueshirts were doomed to fail. After a decent first period, Columbus quickly ran away with the game. The Rangers were out-skated, outshot, and out-scored. To put it simply, the Rangers were not prepared for the level of intensity they were faced with.
Moving forward, the Blueshirts need to become a stronger team. Jacob Trouba looked like the only physical player to care, and he alone was not enough to seal a win. In just two games this season, it’s already been proven how much grit matters to this Rangers team. The Blueshirts play hard, they win. If they don’t, it’s game over.
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Simple hockey is hurting the Rangers
Although the Rangers ended up exiting the first period down by a score of 2-1, it realistically should have been 3-0 in favor of the Blueshirts. Following Erik Gustafsson’s first goal as a Ranger, the Blueshirts soon followed with two goals by Filip Chytil and Mika Zibanejad. Both were called back due to an offsides play, an infuriating decision for both fans and the organization.
Staying onside is one of the simplest rules of hockey. Plays ending up offsides are common, but it’s rare that a team has two goals called back for it in one period. A 3-0 lead would have led to an entirely different game, with the momentum shifting towards the Rangers’ favor. Instead, the Blueshirts were quickly outscored and were never able to catch back up. Will Cuylle did end up scoring his first NHL goal, but the Blue Jackets quickly responded.
Alexis Lafreniere and Chris Kreider were the two victims of skating offsides, and both must play more carefully moving on. Both players had incredible season openers, but neither found success in tonight’s game. This loss can’t be blamed on Lafreniere or Kreider individually, but it’s still frustrating to think about how it could have gone had those first-period goals counted.
The final score should not be blamed on Shesterkin
Although the Rangers allowed five goals in this contest against Columbus, Igor Shesterkin can not be held accountable for this embarrassing defeat. He was screened with no help from the defense, forced to make saves against multiple odd-man rushes, and was left to dry all by himself.
The Rangers’ defense had an absolutely terrible game. It’s unfortunate to say, especially following an almost perfect season opener, but they were terrible. Ryan Lindgren found himself sitting out with an upper-body injury, and Zac Jones did not prove himself a worthy replacement.
The Rangers’ offense is difficult to analyze, because although they found the back of the net four times, only two counted. Following the first period, it became very difficult for the Blueshirts to beat the Columbus netminder. Cuylle and Chris Kreider were able to score, but it would have been helpful to have other names on the scoresheet as well.
If there’s any major takeaway from this game, it’s that Shesterkin needs more help. He received it on opening night but got nothing against Columbus. It’s true that he can steal wins when needed, but it isn’t guaranteed. The Rangers’ defense needs to step up their game and be prepared for their home opener Monday night against Arizona.