Boston Sports Day

McDonald: Losing Stepan Hurts More Than Isles Loss

Well that was “classic.”

Okay not really, but the Rangers tonight did get a dose of reality when they laid an egg against the Islanders.

“We got outskated, out battled in our own zone for sure,” said Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh. “We haven’t given up this many shots in a long time, since I can remember.”

Call it a blip on the radar, maybe. After losing Derek Stepan in the first from an unpenalized slash by Matt Martin, the Rangers struggled against their easterly rivals. And it showed in the second with all Islander goals coming on good fortune, a turnover and a little bit of luck.

This was not the Ranger team we have seen over the past month.

In all honesty, it’s just two points in the standings. With the tremendous run the Rangers went on during this streak, they were bound to lay an egg eventually. It just st happened against the Islander. However, any Ranger fan worth his salt chokes this one down harder than any other defeat.

Just remember, though,  losing a game against the Islanders in January does not mean the world is coming to an end.

What hurts and what every Ranger fan should be concerned about is the health of Stepan. Losing their number one center for any extended period of time will damage this team more than any loss against the Islanders. As we have seen from the beginning of the season, the Ranges without Stepan is a very different club and the Blueshirts struggled with a 6-4-2 record without  him.

Any extended absence will force Glen Sather maybe to make a move at the deadline.

No matter how much Derek Brassard is improving and how much Kevin Hayes does not look like a rookie, the Rangers can ill afford to lose any center for any extended period of time, let alone their No. 1.

Plus since Alain Vigneault likes to roll four lines, he will be unable to have the same consistency from his lineup on the long term.

If Stepan is out, expect Sather to make a move.

In the meantime, it doesn’t get any easier with the next three games on the road in Boston, Columbus and Pittsburgh before coming back home against the Senators before the All-Star Break. Hopefully they will have Stepan back but Vigneault didn’t sound too encouraged.

So after winning 13 of 14 the Rangers now have to buckle down. Hopefully this is just a hiccup and the team can get its revenge in a few weeks on the Island.

“I think we just can’t expect to go and find a way to win,” McDonagh said. “Every guy in the room that’s playing needs to be playing up to his full stepped and potential. We have a lot of wins here and it’s coming different ways, but at the same time we can’t forget that we have to work for those wins.”

Maybe the Ranger captain is right, but right now, there’s just a very uneasy feeling after this loss.

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