New York Rangers have five more games to prepare for playoffs
The New York Rangers have just five games remaining on the regular season, so there isn’t much time for them to completely work out all their struggles. However, the Blueshirts’ previous two games prior to beating the Washington Capitals on Sunday presented concerns that would certainly hurt them in the playoffs.
It’s nice to see the Rangers respond with a solid effort against the Caps but they are a team that’s basically eliminated from contention. As the postseason rapidly approaches with a big test coming against the Tampa Bay Lightning, they must focus on key issues prior to making their run for the Cup
New York Rangers focus before playoffs
Defensive struggles returning
Different stretches this season saw the Rangers experience defensive lapses. This has recently been a theme again. They get caught out of position far too often and leave opposing players wide open. Relying on goaltending is not sustainable for the playoffs when the intensity level rises. Teams will be looking to capitalize on every opportunity they get.
The Rangers will have to tighten up in the defensive zone in order to stay in a series. Considering that this will be a goal of every team in the postseason, the Rangers will not be able to rely on offense to compensate for poor defensive habits.
“We clinched a week ago, and it seems like they think the season is over,” Gerard Gallant lamented after the loss to Buffalo. “It’s not the way it works. There’s no message. You show up and play NHL hockey games. You play like that people get hurt. You get run over in your own zone and people get tired. You’ve got to respect the goaltender and your defense. We’re not playing the game the right way.”
Finding consistency for 60 minutes
Not every game is going to perfect, however a degree of consistency must be reached. This is particular important in the playoffs when momentum plays such a large role in winning a series.
Consistency within games is also a key element is succeeding in the postseason. The Rangers got off to difficult starts in both losses to the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. The Devils outshot them 14-8 in the first period, but 31-25 overall and only won by one goal. The Sabres outshot them by a concerning margin of 11-2 in the first period, but only 34-33 overall and also won by one goal this time in overtime. While the Rangers were able to generate more offense later in these games, the slow starts did not set them up well. In the playoffs, a poor start can potentially dictate an entire game. To set themselves up for success, the Rangers will need to minimize their slow starts and build momentum early.
A major reason for the Rangers’ first period difficulties against the Sabres was general sloppiness of play. Specifically, they struggled to complete passes which made it very difficult to sustain any offensive zone pressure.
The playoffs are close, and the Rangers have some important components of their game to address. They have often shown this season that they can play without these issues hindering them. That is the kind of game that will allow them to be a true contender.
Note: All stats come from nhl.com