New York Rangers are a middle of the road team as we approach halfway mark

By Frank Curto
new york rangers
Mar 7, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Zach Aston-Reese (12) scores a goal against New York Rangers goaltender Keith Kinkaid (71) during the third period at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The last three games for the New York Rangers prove what many didn’t want to say prior to the season starting. This club is not the worse team in the division but aren’t necessarily a playoff caliber squad ether. They are at this point, a middle of the road team.

Last three games a microcosm of the season

The Blueshirts entered a matinee game against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a three-game winning streak and plenty of confidence.

Defeating the Buffalo Sabres last Tuesday and taking both games at the Prudential Center against the Devils on Thursday and Saturday, the team was flying high. It looked like they were ready to grab two points from the Penguins, which would have had them just two points out of a playoff spot.

Sunday’s game started out fast as Mika Zibanejad scored early on to give the Rangers a lead. Unfortunately, it was the only highlight in a 5-1 loss that saw Keith Kinkaid replace Alexandar Georgiev in goal in the first period after Georgiev allowed three goals on only six shots.

The Rangers have been an inconsistent team, yet for the first time in over five weeks, this team had most of their stars in the lineup with the exception of Artemi Panarin and Igor Shesterkin

The difference in the quality of play the Rangers saw Sunday as opposed to the last three games was evident. What was more evident is just how far off this team seems to be from playoff contention regardless of the standings.

rangers penguins
Mar 7, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) reacts with teammates after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the first period at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers issues still linger

The team was unable to control the play for most of Sunday’s game, they didn’t drive to the net as they did in the previous games which led to fewer scoring opportunities. Credit must be given to the Penguins who played solid with a lead at home.

In that game he defense struggled which was surprising as they have played solid hockey for most of the season. Head coach David Quinn acknowledged the problem in his post-game comments.

“A big problem for us tonight was our defensemen on these flips, we were just way too puck-conscious in the neutral zone, not really alert.” He went on to say “[We] gave up three or four breakaways tonight because we’re playing the puck and not keeping our body between the net and the offensive player. Just basic things. Our mentality has to change in that scenario.”

Shots on gaol were rare for the key players in the game. Chris Kreider had three shots ( all three in the second period). Kaapo Kakko had two shots, Pavel Buchnevich had one shot, and Ryan Strome was credited with no shots on goal. Zibanejad had three shots on goal and notched the Blueshirts’ only tally.

They also seem to struggle at times against the better teams in their division. Sunday night was a rare situation where the defense and goaltending both were sub-par in the same game. It cost them dearly.

A quick look at the stats from the game showed absolutely no surprises. Another contest where the teams was below 50% on face-off’s, 0-3 with the man advantage, 24 shots on goal, but many were not “high quality”.

Rangers Penalty Kill a major bright spot

The only real positive was the penalty killing where the team was 3-3. The Rangers have have not allowed a power play goal against in 14 of their last 16 games (50-for-53; 94.3%), including eight of the last nine games (28-for-30; 93.3%) and each of the last six games (13-for-13).

Penalty Killing is just one aspect of a game, though they have been very tough to score against when they are down a man. While that doesn’t always lead to wins, it is a good foundation to build off of.

They have shown glimmers of becoming a better team. Wins against Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington prove that. Yet too many times we have seen the team that showed up Sunday night in Pittsburgh.

With 23 games played and a 10-10-3 record to show for their efforts, this team needs to figure out a way to compete at a higher level against the division’s best.

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