The Rangers finally got to play a hockey game on Saturday after a week of talking about not playing any hockey games.
Did their long layoff contribute to their 4-1 loss to the Oilers at Madison Square Garden? Mike Zibanejad put the matter into perspective.
“I mean, if we won today that week would have been the best in our life,” he said. “Now it’s tough, obviously. You feel like you’re a little bit out of your rhythm. But it’s not an excuse at all.”
The fact the Rangers’ best period was the first seemed to argue against the long layoff theory. But who knows?
“We had a really good first, I think, good energy and had some really good scoring chances,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. “Maybe the time away from the game kind of made it a little tougher for us to get that extra level in our game, but it was a battle.”
The Rangers won their first two games, on Oct. 3 and 5, then had to wait a full week to play again, and now have to wait until Thursday for their fourth game of the season, against the Devils.
The biggest drawback to the strange early schedule is that the team will have to pay for it down the road with more games in a shorter time frame. But as Zibanejad said, its short-term effect is a matter of interpretation.
The Rangers led 1-0 after one period and were tied at 1 after two. Then the Oilers scored three in the third to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 1985-86, when Wayne Gretzky still was their leading scorer.
Said coach David Quinn, “We got off to a good start, but I thought as the game went on we just got sloppier and sloppier.”
Quinn had much more to be annoyed about than the long layoff and lamented in particular a lack of urgency to shoot when given opportunities.
He said he could name five such instances off the top of his head. “You get a loose puck sitting in front of the net, you better get rid of it in a hurry,” he said. “We just didn’t have that shooting mentality.”