New York Rangers Suffer New Years Hangover Against Sabres

The New York Rangers hosted the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden for their first game of 2017. Unfortunately, the Sabres were able to capitalize on the Rangers slow start and sloppy play to spoil New York’s new year in a 4-1 loss.

In a feature here at Blue Line Station, we will be providing thoughts and analysis following every Rangers game. Make sure to stop by after games to see what you might have missed!

Game Action:

  • Alain Vigneault continued to roll out his new defensive pairings, this time Brady Skjei and Dan Girardi started. Henrik Lundqvist started for the New York Rangers in their first game of 2017. Niklas Jensen also got into the game because Matthew Puempel was forced to sit with concussion-like symptoms.

  • The first three plus minutes of the game were spent in the Rangers defensive zone. The Sabres were working the puck in deep and eventually drew a Brady Skjei interference penalty in front of Henrik Lundqvist’s goal crease. Their power play unit had a few looks, but the Rangers were able to kill easily.
  • The Rangers did not get their first shot on goal until 9:54 into the first period from Kevin Klein at the point. They had been unsuccessful in playing a dump and chase style forecheck. J.T. Miller’s line was the only one that had success carrying the puck into the zone to that point.
  • The Sabres zone time domination paid off 12:17 into the period. Brian Gionta worked the puck behind Lundqivst’s net and cycled to find Zemgus Girgensons in front for his 4th goal of the season. Buffalo took the early lead 1-0. Chris Kreider was caught flat-footed on the play while Dan Girardi tied up his assignment in front of Lundqvist.

  • The Rangers began to show signs of life behind Mats Zuccarello and his career-high six game assist streak. However, they were caught on a poor line change late in the period and the Sabres swarmed in numbers. Sam Reinhart fired a shot and Lundqvist allowed a rebound to find Evander Kane’s stick to give the Sabers a 2-0 lead heading into the intermission.
  • Buffalo employed a three men back system for the majority of the period, giving the Rangers very little opportunity to enter their zone. The Rangers were unable to limit their turnovers at the offensive blue line and in turn were awarded very little zone time. The Sabres led in shots 9-5 after one period.
  • The opening of the second period was spoiled by a Kevin Klein turnover in the defensive zone to rookie Justin Bailey who was left unaccounted for. He buried a shot as he left his feet past Lundqvist for his first NHL goal. The Sabres had goals on two straight shots and had a 3-0 lead.
  • The Sabres continued to play aggressively when they did not have the puck, smothering the Rangers skaters as they entered the zone. When the Rangers were able to get shots to the net Buffalo netminder Anders Nilsson allowed few rebounds.
  • Brandon Pirri shot wide on the Rangers first breakaway opportunity of the game and Evander Kane was sprung the other direction for a chance of his own. Dan Girardi was caught in a poor position and resorted to slashing to give the Sabres their second power play, which the Rangers killed successfully.
  • The Sabres awarded the Rangers the same opportunity when Mats Zuccarello was tripped by William Carrier 9:33 into the second period. Coming into the game the Rangers fourth ranked power play had scored on seven of their last 15 opportunities. Both units created chances, but neither were able to put the Rangers on the board. The Rangers led 12-1 in shots to that point in the second period.
  • With play hitting a lull in the second period, the Rangers broke into the zone and J.T. Miller drew a tripping penalty on the entry. They would not need the two minutes, however, because Nick Holden scored his 8th goal of the season before the delayed penalty could be enforced. The Rangers finished the period with a 15-4 lead in shots, 20-13 overall, but the Sabres held the lead 3-1.

  • The third period started with the Sabres drawing their third penalty of the game, and they were able to convert quickly. After J.T. Miller battled Kyle Okposo on a shorthanded opportunity, Ryan McDonagh turned the puck over off of his own skate. Sam Reinhart found Jack Eichel for a redirection to give Buffalo a 4-1 lead early in the third period.
  • The Rangers did not record their first shot on goal until 15:32 into the third period. After the goal, Buffalo played in a defensive shell and the period was largely spent in the neutral zone. Neither team was unable to sustain any offensive zone time for the remainder of the period and the game ended anti-climactically .
  •  Final Score: Buffalo Sabres 4 New York Rangers 1. The New York Rangers led in shots 25-19.

Final Analysis:

  • Credit the Sabres in this game, they smothered the Rangers every time they touched the puck. Buffalo had been reeling before going into the Garden, but they were careful with the puck and were strong on their back checks consistently against the Rangers. Their goaltender Anders Nilsson was strong as well, limiting the Rangers’ rebound chances.
  • The defensive woes of Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein were apparent in this game. Both were caught out of position on multiple occasion and left Henrik Lundqvist to dry on the Sabres first three goals. In a game where the Rangers failed to enter and exit the zone efficiently, it was easy to see where the improvements can be made on defense.
  • Henrik Lundqvist was the real victim in this game. The scoresheet won’t look great for him, giving up 4 goals 19 on shots, but he didn’t have a chance on any of those goals. The game was played in between the blue lines for large stretches and he never seemed to find a groove to carry the team like he normally does.
  • The top line of Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello continues to be the strongest group for the Rangers. When they gain the zone, their creativity is rarely suppressed for long. Zuccarello in particular has been the Rangers strongest two-way players while Rick Nash has been sidelined.
  • The Rangers will have an opportunity to redeem themselves right away on Wednesday Night against the Philadelphia Flyers for Wednesday Night Rivalry.

This article originally appeared on