In the land of the bad, the kings are mediocre, rangers.
The blueshirts got a Sunday night in the garden against the eyesore team from LA, who had come into play with four losses in a row, a win in the last 10 games (1-8-1) and 30th overall.
It was a choppy puck hockey that was hardly a showcase for artistry, but that shouldn't stop the blueshirts from outsmarting this 4-1 triumph over an opponent who hoped to weigh the home team into impatience and frustration like the Sabers on Friday.
Yes, the Rangers allowed 43 shots, all but one by Igor Shesterkin, but you know, as you say, if it's 97 degrees in low humidity, won't you sweat because it's a dry heat? For the 24-year-old Russian rookie, who has clearly climbed to the top of the team's goalkeeper rankings after his fifth win in six starts, this was a comparatively comfortable 42-day parade.
"The best will continue to play," said David Quinn. “It is no longer a high priority for us to keep people happy.
"It will win hockey games."
The Rangers, who won 27 and lost 27 (27-23-4), seem to think they can still get a run in the playoffs. If so, the priority will be to win a lot of hockey games, and soon. The blueshirts will travel to Winnipeg, Minnesota and Columbus for three games on Monday to play a game in hand as the 12th team from the East, nine points behind the second Wild Card Carolina.
It will take a series, which is strange to this team that has won up to three times in a row, just before Thanksgiving.
"That's right, but a series has to start with one," said Chris Kreider. "We know the leaderboard and we know where we are. Obviously we have to run a bit. We don't necessarily talk about it much, but it was said that our fate is in our own hands."
This was one in which the great, passive kings tried to strangle the rangers through the neutral zone. Unlike the 2: 3 loss on Friday to the passive jamming Sabers, the blueshirts did not insist on pounding round pegs into square holes by trying to scribble one against three or two against five. Instead, the Rangers adopted a basic game mentality.
It certainly helped when the club scored 1-0 in the first game's 2:23 success when Greg McKegg drilled from the left into an open side after Jonathan Quick after a tricky rebound from the back wall onto a Ryan Lindgren dump had been caught -im. Brett Howden collected the puck below the goal line and sent one for McKegg.
The goal was more than codifying the success plan in this case. It gave the Rangers some confidence. The last thing they needed was to be included in a goalless game – or a trail – in the middle of the second section.
"It prevented frustration from starting," said Kreider. "It was important to us to play with a tour."
The team's defensive structure has improved noticeably over the past month. The club's problems had much more to do with a lack of decision-making and puck support from the neutral zone and the offensive line. There have been issues with gaps and overcoming the defensive blue line, but while the coverage isn't entirely reminiscent of 2011-12, it doesn't evoke memories of 2017-18 or 2018-19. The fact is that the blueshirts have scored two or fewer goals in six of the last ten games and in seven of the last 14 games.
"We did a good job of plugging the center and playing with our heads on a peg," said Kreider, using the clichés appropriately. "We didn't look. We kept it simple, got into many fights on the wall and stayed with it."
The 1-0 lead was stronger than ever before Kaapo Kakko broke through a 12-game drought and scored his second goal in his last 33 games when he converted a Filip Chytil feed at 9:20 a.m. Trevor Moore reduced the lead to 2: 1 at 10:47 a.m., but Artemi Panarin went online and banged a Ryan Strome rebound around 5:12 p.m.
It wasn't nice, except for the fact that there is no ugly victory for a team on the Rangers Street. Now the street on which Shesterkin will be leaving MSG for the first time. Now the street where the Rangers have to roam.
"We are facing a challenge," said Strome. "And we accept it."