What Went Wrong: New York Rangers

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The problems the Rangers ran into in their series with the Washington Capitals are pretty apparent. When you get knocked out of the playoffs in five games, it’s easy to put a big circle around the areas where the Rangers just flat out weren’t better than the Capitals in at all. That’s not going to stop us from pointing them out one last time however. Here’s our list of things that went horribly wrong for the Rangers in the playoffs.

1. The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad power play
The Rangers had a lot of problems when on the man advantage. In 20 power play chances the Rangers scored just one goal, good for a 5% success rate. Stunningly, that’s better than two other teams in the post season (Pittsburgh at 4%, Boston at 0%) but unfortunately for the Rangers, they weren’t playing either of those teams. Without the power play producing, the Rangers offense wasn’t producing either as they scored just eight goals in five games. When you’re scoring that little against a team as good as Washington, you’re going to lose.

2. One grand missed opportunity
This might as well just be about Game 4 as that game turned out to be the make it or break it game of the series. The Rangers got the goals they were looking for getting out to a 3-0 lead before giving it all away in the third period and going on to lose in double overtime. With the Capitals holding a 2-1 series lead going into that game, a Rangers win in Game 4 would’ve changed the complexion of the series completely. Had the Rangers won, the pressure on Washington to not be chokey chokers would’ve been immense and doubt would’ve been cast on to their ability to win big games. Again. Instead, it’s a monumental collapse for New York and a heartbreaking defeat that turned Game 5 into a very loud funeral for the Rangers season.

3. Superstars playing too normal
Marian Gaborik was a no-show for New York. Sure he scored a goal in Game 4, but his overanxious play in double overtime turned into the game-winning goal for Washington. Brandon Dubinsky did about as well as you could expect given the circumstances but he had to play bigger. Being without Ryan Callahan didn’t help matters either. Defenseman Marc Staal’s main duty was shadowing Alex Ovechkin and considering Ovechkin was the Caps’ top scorer with three goals and three assists, that just wasn’t good enough.

Then there’s poor Henrik Lundqvist. Hung out to dry by his defense in Game 4 and Game 5, holding strong through the first three games of the series and just unable to completely shut things down. Believe it or not, the injury to Martin Biron may have been a killer as Lundqvist had to play every game down the stretch just to get the Rangers into the playoffs. Lundqvist’s job is play tons of games anyhow, but a breather or two down the stretch could’ve helped out a lot.

4. Not enough talent
It’s nice to be able to make this assessment and be able to cite the team’s head coach when doing so. After their Game 5 loss, John Tortorella had this to say about where the team is at.

“We’re still in a process so we’ll just keep on going to try to get better, there are areas with our team that need to get better,” Tortorella said before adding, “I don’t think our team is fully built yet. You’ve got to remember what this Washington team was for a number of years, look how their team was built with the draft picks. So we’re not there yet, to be honest with you, we’re not as far as talent. We have to play a certain way but, again, we’re in the process. We’ll continue to build to try to find our way.”

He’s right. Certainly in this series the Rangers couldn’t compete with the Capitals and while the Rangers do have a virtually maxed out payroll, they’re not there yet and it showed in how things went down in the playoffs.

Josh Archibald suspended two games for hit on Ryan Hartman

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After holding a hearing with Josh Archibald earlier on Friday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety suspended the Arizona Coyotes forward two games for his “high, hard hit” on Ryan Hartman of the Nashville Predators.

The league’s explanation video explains that Hartman’s head was “the main point of contact” and that contact with the head was avoidable.

During the game itself (a 2-1 win for the Coyotes on Thursday), Archibald received a minor penalty. He doesn’t have a history of supplemental discipline at the NHL level, which may have prompted a lighter punishment. Hartman eventually returned to that loss for Nashville.

Here’s the explanation video via the NHL’s DPoS:

Archibald will be eligible to play for the Coyotes again on Nov. 23.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Penguins’ Matt Cullen fined $1,000 by NHL for dangerous trip

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NEW YORK (AP) — Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cullen has been fined $1,000 by the NHL for a dangerous trip of Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Miller.

The infraction came during the first period of Thursday night’s game, a 4-3 victory by Tampa Bay. Cullen was assessed a minor penalty for tripping.

In announcing the fine, the league said Friday the money will go the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Tavares living up to hype for Leafs with Matthews out

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have a lot going on right now, and quite a bit of it is no good.

Auston Matthews‘ bad injury luck continues. The William Nylander contract impasse is dragging on far longer than most of us expected.

Good thing the Maple Leafs won The John Tavares Sweepstakes, then, right?

Thursday presented the latest example of that free-agent gift that keeps giving, as Tavares and the Maple Leafs beat the San Jose Sharks 5-3 in a game that was frequently filling. For some, it was a reminder that Tavares’ transition has been seamless compared to Erik Karlsson‘s growing pains with the Sharks. Such comparisons feel petty, really, when you consider just how joyous Tavares’ run has been so far with the team he rooted for (and slept on bedsheets for) as a child.

Consider that Matthews has last played on Oct. 27. Since then, Tavares has really embraced his role as the clear go-to guy for the Maple Leafs. While he was unable to generate a point in Toronto’s flat loss to the Flames in the first game following Matthews’ injury, Tavares has been trading off being electric and automatic since then.

The talented center managed to generate a point in every November game so far (five goals and five assists for 10 points). Tavares’ goal from Thursday also extended his goal streak to four games.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer provided praise heading into that Leafs – Sharks game that ended up being prophetic.

“I just love the honesty to his game. He plays both ends of the rink, he wins battles, he goes to the dirty areas of the rink, he makes other people around him better, which you think is everybody in the NHL, but it’s not,” DeBoer said, via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “That’s a short list of guys. You can put a John Tavares with almost anybody and he’s going to make a line go or make those guys better. Joe Thornton has that ability, too.

“He’s just a special player.”

Indeed, Tavares showed that he can score ugly just about as efficiently as he can set up beautiful chances.

Of course, the Maple Leafs aren’t subsisting on Tavares’ shrewd play alone. Morgan Rielly continues to put up highly impressive offensive numbers from the blueline. While the Maple Leafs’ hit-or-miss defense can sometimes hang him out to dry, Frederik Andersen builds a case as an underrated goalie, including making 42 saves against the Sharks in that 5-3 win. Kasperi Kapanen is taking advantage of a long-awaited opportunity to prove himself, and Mitch Marner has been just about as explosive as many expected when it became clear that he’d line up with Tavares. Nazem Kadri is thriving as a second-line center.

Still, Tavares stands out for his consistency and versatility.

” … He’s been a leader,” Rielly told the AP after the Maple Leafs beat the Kings 5-1 on Tuesday. “He’s been a 200-foot player. He’s been putting the puck in the net.”

With respectable-yet-unspectacular possession numbers, it’s true that Tavares stands out most for his offense (23 points, including 12 goals, three of which were game-winners).

Even so, it’s heartening to see that Tavares can carry the Maple Leafs during those stretches where their deadly one-two punch goes down to just one (or, at least, a solid but less spectacular two in Kadri).

Considering a slightly-high 16.9 shooting percentage, perhaps Tavares will cool off during the grind of an 82-game season. So far, he’s living up to the considerable hype … and, besides, Matthews might be back in time to warm things up if Tavares suffers a cold spell.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Trading Ryans: Rangers get Strome, Oilers nab Spooner

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Perhaps mid-November is the time for lateral trades and troubling injuries?

Oilers fans probably tense up whenever their team makes a trade, yet this one is more of a shoulder shrug than a forehead-slapper: Edmonton receives Ryan Spooner, while the New York Rangers get Ryan Strome.

(Hey, stop yawning.)

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Rangers retained $900K of Spooner’s salary (for each of the next seasons) to make the trade work; each forward now carries a $3.1 million cap hit in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

You really need to crane your neck to see the differences between Strome, 25, and Spooner, 26. Reactions have gone both ways as far as which team “won” the trade, as you might expect from a move that more or less merely shakes things up.

Plenty of people are, instead, merely enjoying just how negligible the difference is between the two forwards:

… Or using this as another opportunity to ridicule bumbling Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, who acquired Strome in that ill-fated Jordan Eberle trade before the 2017-18 season.

As PHT’s Adam Gretz notes, this trade is mainly a reminder of past mistakes:

Chiarelli drafted Spooner during his days with the Boston Bruins, so that likely explains why he targeted the forward.

At least, that explains it beyond making a trade for the sake of making a trade.

While I’d argue that the Penguins edged the Kings by landing Tanner Pearson for Carl Hagelin, it’s most likely to be a small victory. The difference, on paper, might be even less obvious here, unless a change of scenery truly sparks one or the other. Strome’s possession stats have been better and their production has been comparable over the years. Maybe Spooner could find chemistry with Connor McDavid in a way that would allow Leon Draisaitl to play on his own line? From here, this is a marginal trade, but there’s always a chance it might be a little more fruitful than expected.

If nothing else, it could serve as a wakeup call. That sure beats the Oilers’ unfortunate tradition of trades being a kick in the gut.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.