After two straight losses there’s NOTHING wrong with the New York Rangers

Jonathan Quick stops Carl Hagelin (Jared Silber / Getty)

Jonathan Quick stops Carl Hagelin (Jared Silber / Getty)

Panic! Most people hate it, but I believe some members of the NY sports media scene and fans love it. Seriously, if I wanted to get a lot of attention to my site, all I have to do is write an article entitled ‘Why the Rangers can’t win the Cup”. More people would click on that than this one, why? Because this is positive and positivity is boring.

The Rangers lost two consecutive games this weekend, for the first time since January. That was TWO MONTHS AGO! Does that even register with people? Instead of panicking, how about looking at reasons why they lost? Wouldn’t that be logical instead of thinking this team can’t win anymore.

First off, I’m not happy with the recent play of the Rangers. In the last week they’ve lost 3 out of their last 4 games and have looked sloppy for stretches in each game except Ottawa. However, this is the same team that gave the Anaheim Ducks the beating of a lifetime before these 4 games.

Lack of Practice Time and Too Many Games In Too Little Days

So what’s ailing the Rangers? Alain Vigneault alluded to it yesterday when he said the team looked like it ran out of gas and it effected their execution. The Rangers were playing their 3rd game in 4 nights and that shouldn’t be used as an excuse, it’s just a fact.

Also with so much hockey recently, finding practice time to correct the mistakes has been difficult. The schedule doesn’t get any easier with the Rangers having to play their final 7 games in the next 12 days. That is hockey every other night, including another back to back on April 6th and 7th.

While there’s nothing they can do about this, they can rally each other and push themselves to be better. The players returning from injury will provide fresh legs also.

Chemistry Disruption Due To Injury

Rangers are without MSL's services (Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Rangers are without MSL’s services (Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

While many like to complain about Martin St. Louis, his absence up front has caused more havoc than Kevin Klein‘s on the blue-line. Matt Hunwick has been able to slide into Klein’s spot and hold the fort.

Upon MSL’s injury, Kevin Hayes was taken out of his role as 3rd line center and moved up to 2nd line wing. That move essentially handcuffed the lineup and gave them only 2 offensive lines. The Rangers were shut out by Chicago and the experiment was over.

The next game, JT Miller was moved up to the 2nd line and Hayes went back to his third line spot against Carolina with Fast on his wing. That meant both Tanner Glass and James Sheppard were in the lineup with Dominic Moore on the 4th line. Both are solid checkers, but neither is a speed demon by any stretch and certainly appeared to slow down Dominic Moore. Regardless, the Rangers managed a 3-2 win in a shootout.

AV has gone through a bit of line juggling over the last week and the Rangers appear a bit out of sync. They also seem to be pressing, which is never a good thing and leads to turnovers. Matter of fact, in these last two losses they committed 18 of them. Chris Kreider being the biggest offender with 3 upfront. An MSL return will bump Glass or Sheppard out and restore balance.

On the back-line, Keith Yandle seems to be trying to do too much. He’s committed 3 turnovers in his last two games and has certainly had a hard time fitting in. However, let’s be fair here for a moment. Yandle played 4 games with the top group of defenders before Kevin Klein went down. At the time of the injury, Vigneault wasn’t even sure of who to play him with as he was paired with everyone on defense at least once.

You have to think that as soon as MSL and Klein get back many of these issues will work themselves out. Especially from a stability and chemistry standpoint.

Goaltending Is Great

Talbot and Lundqvist  (NHL)

Talbot and Lundqvist (NHL)

Nothing helps working through issues more than stellar goaltending. The greatest security blanket the Rangers have wear masks, just like any good superhero.

Both Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot have been stellar this season and will continue to bail this team out as they work things out.

The game against Boston will appear like a blip on the radar for Lundqvist as his timing and reads were improving with each passing minute of play. While he gave up 3 in the first period, one came off a broken play and received a favorable ruling from Toronto on the Lucic kick. The other two goals came off a breakaway and a shot from an area Hank normally stops.

He and Talbot should alternate a bit down the stretch depending on how Lundqvist performs in Winnipeg on Tuesday. Regardless, this is the biggest non issue on the Rangers and shouldn’t be discussed.

The Power Play Needs to Produce

Yandle (Bruce Bennet / Getty)

Yandle (Bruce Bennet / Getty)

Well it actually helps to get opportunities on the PP to begin with. Prior to yesterday’s 5 man advantage bonanza, the Rangers received 1 PP in 3 games. Not the best way to work out of a slump.

Bottom line is the PP needs to produce and that’s only going to come from doing two things. Shooting the puck is the most obvious issue as the Rangers propensity to pass the puck is worse on the man advantage. However, the Rangers need to keep moving their feet as well and get more offense from the kill zone area in front of the net.

Rick Nash needs to work his way to the center of the ice and Chris Kreider needs to be an immovable object in front. More shots from the point need to be screened and deflected as well. It’s time for the Rangers to get basic on the PP and watch the goals come.

It’s Going to be Fine

This is a very good Rangers team and a legitimate top 3 contender to win the Stanley Cup. While that may be difficult for many to accept because it’s just to good to be true, it is reality. If you think the Blueshirts have problems, go read the newspapers of other contenders. If you do, you’ll find their’s are worse.

In Montreal, they believe if Carey Price doesn’t stand on his head they’re done. The Islanders are looking for answers as to why they’ve gone cold and fallen out of 1st place after being so dominant. Over in the West, many believe the Ducks could be a first round exit as they are slower than most teams. This is only 3 teams, but almost every single playoff team has problems.

When you look at the Rangers, you have to say to yourself that once they get fully healthy most of our issues are fixed. Maybe the PP is a legit concern, but we’ve seen teams with horrible PP’s win the Cup in the past. The Rangers made it to the Final last year on a PP that was so bad it makes this one look like the Penguins of the 90’s.

So relax, step back and look at the big picture, because it’s really damn good.

NYR 2014/15 (SportingCharts)

NYR 2014/15 (SportingCharts)

 

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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