New York Rangers: First clash with Tampa Bay since deadline deal displays reality

EDMONTON, AB - MARCH 03: Chris Kreider (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
EDMONTON, AB - MARCH 03: Chris Kreider (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /

The New York Rangers were beginning to turn heads following their deadline fire sale winning three straight, but they came crashing down to earth after drawing the elite Tampa Bay Lightning, the recipient of their recent blockbuster trade.

The New York Rangers got off to a hot start following the trade deadline with a sweep of their three-game road trip to Western Canada.

At one point they even found themselves only three points out of a playoff spot which only teased Rangers fans into starting to believe in the possibility of a real playoff push.

Even if it was only three games, many were starting to think the Rangers could still be pretty legitimate and the best test to tell if they were or not was putting them against the best team in hockey.

The reality of what the New York Rangers really are slapped them in the face when they arrived in Tampa Bay to face the NHL’s undisputed best team, who happened to be also featuring some familiar faces.

Former Ranger forward J.T. Miller was in the lineup against his former teammates only ten days after being traded. Vladislav Namestnikov would be doing the same while returning to his former home arena in Tampa Bay.

Ryan McDonagh was spared the conflict of facing his old friends this early as he is still out with injury, but will probably be back come the next meeting on March 30.

The first two periods of this game were perhaps the most painful 40 minutes of Rangers hockey we have seen this season.

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The Lightning registered 16 shots on goal before the Rangers could muster one and they totaled 20 by the end of the first period. Two of those shots would beat Lundqvist as there was no chance on either for him.

It was almost like watching a goalie warmup where every shot was just coming off the rush because the Lightning had so much time and space.

Lundqvist would eventually get yanked at 7:25 of the second period after surrendering the fourth goal of the night on 31 shots just halfway through the game.

The Rangers fought valiantly in the third period and made the loss more respectable by bringing the final score to 5-3, but in essence, they could not play with Tampa.

Two straight losses and the Rangers now find themselves nine points out and it is now truly only a fantasy to envision them playing in a playoff series this year.

To be honest, as much as I would have loved to see them fight back after the deadline and miraculously climb back into the picture, it would have been useless to see a first-round exit in a short four or five-game series.

If the Rangers would have squeaked into the playoffs, they would have been without a doubt the second wild-card spot in the east, which gives them only one possible first-round opponent and that is Tampa.

We got a taste of what that would have been like Thursday night and it would be pointless to have done all of that work just to see them maybe win one game in the first round.

However, there are a few exciting things happening that make Rangers hockey still fun and that is the development of new players and players stepping into new roles.

Kevin Hayes scored Thursday night to officially make this his career-high season in goals. Ryan Spooner tallied three points to bring his total to ten points in six games.

Tony DeAngelo, John Gilmour, and Neal Pionk seem to become more and more comfortable each game and the blue line looks revitalized.

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Although the New York Rangers are no match for the elite, it is assuring to see a team that was just disassembled winning games and putting up a fight, as next season could be better than what we expected.