The New York Rangers have 39 points, good for second in the Metro behind the Washington Capitals (who have 40 points and three games in-hand). They’re in playoff position, and are likely going to be a playoff team.
Yet ask a Rangers fan, and they’ll tell you they’re unsatisfied. And pessimistic. And worried about a team that appears to have some systemic problems.
The Rangers are, infamously, one of the worst possession teams in the NHL this season – currently No. 29 in 5v5 Corsi percentage, ahead of only Colorado. On Friday night, their defensive lapses and issues on their blueline manifested in an embarrassing 7-5 loss at the Edmonton Oilers.
(Embarrassing in performance, if not in opponent – don’t look now, but the Oilers have won five straight!)
The reviews are in! From Rangers Rants:
The defensive lapses were staggering and too numerous to list, even for a team that’s struggled with its back-end structure at times through its current slump.
Put one way, it was the Rangers’ worst defensive performance of the season. Put another: it certainly wasn’t a banner night for them as they simultaneously spoiled both president Glen Sather’s banner-raising ceremony at Rexall Place and coach Alain Vigneault’s 1,000th regular-season game in a 7-5 loss to the Oilers on Friday night.
“It has to be rectified right now. We haven’t been winning a lot lately. There were some good games in there where we played some solid minutes but it got away from us tonight,” defenseman Dan Girardi said. “I wish I could explain more. That’s definitely a bad effort on a night our president gets honored.”
The Rangers’ previous worst goals allowed this season was only five, but Friday they fell to 2-6-1 in their last nine games, including Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss in Vancouver. Now, they will be desperate for a win Saturday night in Calgary against the Flames (12-14-2, 26 points), who are battling a team-wide flu bug but also have won four in a row.
Honestly, it is difficult to figure just where the Blueshirts turn. The defense is unreliable with the McDonagh-Girardi alleged first pair an adventure in itself. Breakdowns in discipline are replete, both technically and emotionally, as exemplified by Chris Kreider’s senseless roughing penalty late in the second on which Edmonton took advantage for a 4-3 lead at 0:18, just seconds after he escaped the box.
And though Lundqvist was often a victim of negligence, The King was shaky most of the way, seemingly late in tracking the puck and unable to grasp it just as his team was unable to get a grasp on the game. “I over-challenged,” Lundqvist said. “We’re beating ourselves a little bit, and that’s the difference between finding ways to win and finding ways to lose.”
In other words, Lundqvist is putting too much on himself, and making mistakes, because he knows what’s playing in front of him.
The Rangers get back at it on Saturday night at the Calgary Flames.
Again, none of this is a surprise to the Rangers fans that have been solemnly predicting that this team’s defense wasn’t good enough this season.
The silver lining for most of the campaign has been the team’s ability to counterpunch when it’s not possessing the puck – the speed of their forward group can produce some quick strikes. And any time the Rangers have a lead entering the third period, the game’s over.
But they’ve got these lapses. And like Girardi said, they “have to be rectified.” (Of course, if Rangers fans had their way, shipping out Girardi would be part of that rectification …)
Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
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