It may have only been an exhibition game for the Rangers but losing to their crosstown rival still got their attention.
Yes, the perspective was still there — Wednesday night’s 2-1 exhibition loss to the Islanders in Toronto meant nothing, and certainly had its positives. For starters, it was nice to slip a game jersey on and get away from those monotonous intrasquad scrimmages.
But, no matter the time or place, a loss to the Islanders is still a loss to the Islanders and there was a degree of anger and frustration permeating the Rangers locker room as they packed up for a Thursday off day, said Rangers left wing Chris Kreider.
“I can tell you that guys are a little [ticked] off and a little angry after that one,” Kreider said Wednesday night on the postgame Zoom call with reporters. “You never like losing to the Islanders. Having a chip on our shoulder going into the first playoff round is not a bad thing.”
The Rangers will begin their best-of-five qualifying series Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Wednesday night marked the first time players were able to experience the atmosphere of bubble games. Gone are the Madison Square Garden faithful and the deafening noise of a typical Stanley Cup chase. Enter the sterile sounds of the ‘new normal.'
“When you’re on the ice playing, it wasn’t a whole lot different,” said defenseman Jacob Trouba. “I think on the bench is when you notice it most. You can hear everything that’s said. There’s just not that extra buzz. But, when you’re on the ice, it’s kind of the same game.”
Added Kreider: “It was definitely easier to communicate with teammates on the ice and on the bench. Sometimes during the playoffs, in certain buildings, you can barely hear yourself think, so that will be different.”
While the lack of fans provided the obvious benefit of easier communication, the normal playoff energy that usually comes from thousands of excited spectators will have to be self-generated.
“You’re just kind of sitting there in silence at times,” Trouba said. “It’ll be important to keep talking, keep the energy up as a team, stay positive. Your team is really the only energy you got in the building, so you have to stick together pretty well in the situation.”
Notes & quotes: During an interview on ESPN Radio New York, coach David Quinn declined to name a starting goaltender for Saturday’s opener against Carolina. Rookie Igor Shesterkin started in Wednesday night’s loss to the Islanders and faced seven shots in 29:10 on the ice. Henrik Lundqvist played the remainder of the game. They each gave up one goal. “These guys have all looked good since we’ve been back,” said Quinn, adding Alexandar Georgiev into the mix. “There are worse problems to have than having three really good goalies." . . . Quinn also said that winger Kaapo Kakko may see time on the top two lines during the series. Kakko played several shifts on the second line and a few on the first on Wednesday night . . . Mika Zibanejad was named the winner of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, an honor chosen by fans and bestowed on the player that ‘goes above and beyond the call of duty.’ Zibanejad won the award last season and is the sixth Ranger who has won the award in at least two consecutive seasons, the team said in a news release.