Good defense, not offense has been the key to New York Rangers success

Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are a very good hockey team– when they want to play defense.

As of late, that hasn’t been the case and they’ve paid dearly for it, going 2-3-1 in their last six games. In the process, they fallen atop the NHL mountain, by four points to the Winnipeg Jets, and watched their lead over the second place Carolina Hurricanes in the Metro Division dwindle to five points.

“We made mental mistakes,” coach Peter Laviolette explained after another turnover filled loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.

“Line change mistakes. Turnover mistakes. The mistakes that we made were really loud. It reminded me of the beginning of the year where we were making mistakes and they went in. It’s just too much for our goaltenders, and we’ve got to be better than that. We can’t afford those mistakes and expect to win a game.”

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New York Rangers need to focus on defense first

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This season, the Blueshirts are 26-11-2. That record was not accomplished thanks to their scoring prowess, but because of their attention to detail in all three zones.

In games where the Rangers have given up three or less goals, they are a perfect 24-0-0 on the year. When the team gets loose and looking to make the highlight reel, it’s a totally different story. All of their losses have come when they’ve given up four or more goals. When they let in four-plus, their record stands at 2-11-2.

“The quality of the opportunities we gave up is just not a recipe to be successful,” captain Jacob Trouba stated. “Our details, and the way we played (against Vancouver) was mentally not sharp enough to be good for 60 minutes.”

As the Rangers head to St. Louis to take on the Blues, followed by a home-and-home series against the Washington Capitals, they’ll need to recommit to playing defense. That was the emphasis at practice on Tuesday.

The team worked on odd-man rushes against, puck-management, and controlling the neutral zone. All key aspects to playing sound and structured defense.

“If there’s several of those things in a game, it can hurt you coming back the other way,” Laviolette noted. “You look to get back, defend, and have your goalie make a save on a tough chance. I just feel like these are things we can review, go over, practice, and get better at.”

While this may sound like a broken record to many at this juncture, the team has been receptive to the coach’s message all-year long. They will get a chance to show just how receptive this time around on Thursday versus the Blues.

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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