In the first 17 games of the season, the Rangers have an 8-6-3 record for 19 points. Not the start the Rangers had in mind when they were trying to build from last season’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals. So what’s causing the Rangers to have this unexpectedly slow start to the season? Well, there are a few reasons.
Sloppy Defensive Mistakes
First, the team has been making critical mistakes in the defensive zone. It’s not just one defenseman. It’s not all Trouba’s fault. Many players are not making smart plays in the defensive zone, including the offensive players. Whether it’s not communicating correctly or not having crisp passes to get the puck out of the zone, could the Rangers switch up the defensive pairings? Sure, but they must also be better at communicating and making smarter plays. This may seem like a bit to fix; however, when the Rangers were playing with confidence (vs. Detroit and Arizona), those sloppy mistakes dwindled. Honestly, with changes in the pairings and gaining confidence throughout games, you might be surprised how quickly this problem will fade.
The Offensive Zone Perimeter Play
The Rangers have the habit of only playing the perimeter game. They don’t generate enough chances between the red dots and the doorstep. We see the Ranger’s shots per game going up from last year, and we all scratch our heads, asking, “Why do we have a problem scoring”? The reason is they’re almost always shooting from the outside. Yes, they’ve had their fair share of meetings with hot goaltending, but if it happens too often, you have to think that it’s lousy shot selection or, as we just mentioned too many outside shots. We’ve seen what the Rangers can do when they start trying to produce chances in those two areas (Vs. Detroit and Arizona).
In the past six games, out of the 20 total goals (inflated due to 8-2 vs. Detroit), the Rangers have scored 11 even-strength goals between the red dots or the doorstep. They need more consistency in those departments, like crashing the net after a shot from the outside. The shots from the point are rarely going to go in cleanly, but it’s not the point of the shot(no pun intended). Most of the time, it’s only one Ranger in front surrounded by two or three defensemen. Suppose it’s not that it’s all 3 Rangers going to the front but don’t position themselves right and ending up blocking the shot headed to the net. Yes, it’s on the defenseman to get those pucks past everyone, but those players by the net don’t help with their positioning.
This is the perfect example of what they have to do more of.
Again it’s also about confidence. The moment that first goal by Goodrow went in vs. Arizona, the Rangers started playing with purpose. They started playing smarter, going to the dirty areas, and playing as a unit rather than individual players just skating around.
If the Rangers can generate chances in those places, play smarter on defense and gain confidence while doing so, they may become the team that all of us envisioned them to be.