Frustrating preseason comes to an end for New York Rangers

NHL: Preseason-Boston Bruins at New York Rangers
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

No matter how you want to dress it up, this preseason was brutal for the New York Rangers.

The team looked good in their first two exhibition tilts going 1-1-0. After being shut out by Brandon Bussi of the Boston Bruins, then the Rangers blitzed the New York Islanders early and won it 4-2. From there, it was a litany of poor efforts and defensive zone lapses to lose four straight and finishing 1-5-1.

“It’s always frustrating when you lose,” a dejected Peter Laviolette said after falling to the Bruins 3-1 on Thursday.

“From a defensive standpoint, there’s a couple of chances in the third period I just didn’t like. On the (game-winning) goal, we had everybody back, we just didn’t defend it very well.”

The head coach did note that overall the team was tight defensively, and considering they only allowed 15 shots, it’s hard to argue. However, their inability to play that way consistently is a concern, but one that seems easily fixable.

That may not be the case with some other areas of the Rangers’ game.

New York Rangers frustrating preseason over

NHL: Preseason-Boston Bruins at New York Rangers
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Two areas that everyone should be worried about are the power play and penalty kill units. In the preseason, the Rangers finished last on the PK at 60% (6-15) and next to last on the PP at 4.8% (1-21).

On the PK, the Rangers left men all alone in front over and over. Meanwhile, the PP frustrated fans as the top unit continuously became pass happy, forgetting that shooting the puck is how you score. Matter of fact, the team’s only power play goal came on a 5 on 3 advantage when an Adam Fox pass redirected off a Devils’ skate and into the net.

“The first part of camp, you’re focused on the 5 on 5 play and not so much the [special teams],” Laviolette admitted. “These guys have been together (on the PP) so there’s a little more rhythm. The penalty kill is a little bit new and different, so they’re figuring it out.”

New York will have plenty of time to work on it in practice, considering the season does not start until next Thursday in Buffalo. I think this will be especially helpful for the penalty killers, who need to learn how to read off each other as much as the opponents. On the power play, good luck getting Mika Zbanejad, Artemi Panarin, and Adam Fox to think shoot first.

Of course, we can’t lose sight that both Zibanejad and Panarin missed time early with injuries, which no doubt added to the Rangers issues. Also not having Filip Chytil for all but one preseason game didn’t help. While he remains questionable due to an upper-body injury, the team is optimistic he’ll be ready for the start of the season.

His return could also help the Rangers power play, since Chytil is a shoot first type player. Swapping out Trocheck for him on the first unit seems like the right move.

At the end of the day, no one should take a lot of stock in the Rangers’ 1-5-0 preseason record. Those were the exact sentiments of the team’s captain, Jacob Trouba.

“Everyone is competitive and wants to win the game,” Trouba explained. “But that’s what the preseason is for, to work on those things. We all see it, we talk about it, and it’s good to get that on video, go over it and be on the same page.”

The preseason is over, as they look forward to the start of the 2023-24 campaign and putting all these frustrations behind them.

What lies ahead for the Blueshirts are a handful of practice sessions, beginning tomorrow at 11 a.m. ET. The team can work on their issues and allow management to make some final decisions regarding the opening night roster.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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