New York Rangers need to shake off these last two games to prove doubters wrong
The New York Rangers have had mostly a successful season but have experienced a dip in play in recent weeks. This team should make the playoffs and have added some important depth pieces, but the last two games have reinforced why many still don’t see them as a serious contender.
In their last two games the Rangers are 1-1, but their play in five out of six periods have been filled with turnovers and “stupid hockey” as Ryan Strome put it.
New York Rangers Georgiev stole a win against Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes are at the top of the Metropolitan Division with 90 points and have shown in recent years that they are a legit playoff competitor. The game on Sunday night was a test for the Rangers as a younger team still trying to work out issues to become a contender. The Rangers were able to win 2-0 but in a way that was far from ideal.
The Hurricanes dominated the majority of the game. Shots were 44-18 in favor of Carolina, and they put on more sustained offensive zone pressure than the Rangers could handle. Alexandar Georgiev was the only reason the Rangers were able to win this game. He played much better than he has of late, getting back to a form that proves he could be a starting goaltender in the NHL. The Rangers did record 39 hits to the Hurricanes’ 16 which played a role in their narrow win.
But the Rangers overall played a passive game. They applied little offensive pressure and mostly played defense, or at least tried to hold off the swarming Canes. Thanks to Georgiev’s incredible goaltending and some timely goals they were able to pull this one off.
Of course, that strategy will not work in the playoffs during a 7 game series. The Rangers need to be able to skate with teams like Carolina if they want to make a run. They will have to be just as fast and aggressive and play with just as much intention and urgency as the other contenders.
“We were a tired hockey team coming in at 2 o’clock in the morning and having to play at 6,” coach Gerard Gallant admitted after the game. “I was so happy to see [Georgiev] come off the ice with a shutout.”
Poor effort against Devils cause for concern
After an exciting trade deadline day where the Rangers made some quality additions, they lost in embarrassing fashion 7-4 to the New Jersey Devils. The first period looked as if they had learned from their nerve wracking victory on Sunday night. They came out with speed and intention and were able to score twice. The second period, however looked like a different game altogether. All urgency was gone from their game, and they returned to passive hockey.
The difference between this game and Sunday’s was the complete lack of defensive compete, almost expecting Igor Shesterkin to cover up all their turnovers and missed coverages. The second period saw a total defensive collapse with forwards and defensemen alike being caught out of position or even just standing around. After allowing the Devils to tie the game and then take a 3-2 lead, the entire team seemed to panic. Chris Kreider said in a post game press conference that they “just fell asleep at the wheel, which is unacceptable and frustrating.”
This loss of momentum from period to period has been a consistent issue throughout the season. The Rangers will need to learn to play with a consistent pace in order to have playoff success. A recent trend towards passive hockey is something that needs to be addressed immediately. The success the Rangers have this season is undeniable but also did not occur because they played without pace and urgency. Getting back to maintaining momentum and playing with purpose needs to be a focus.
Game against Penguins on Friday will serve as a test
The Rangers are currently three points behind the Penguins. The Devils are way below both teams in the standings, so the fact that the Rangers performed the way the did against them is very concerning. Getting back to playing a team on a higher level, the Rangers will have to reset.
Playing the Penguins will serve as a test to determine if this passive hockey they’ve been playing was just a fluke or if it is a larger problem. Everyone needs to elevate their game this Friday. The new additions played well against the Devils, most notably Andrew Copp. Copp exhibited his versatility as a forward and recorded two assists. But now the Rangers need everyone to step up and play their part to move past these two disappointing performances.
“We had a great first, everyone was in a good mindset, and I think it was just mental errors, some stupid hockey by everyone,” Ryan Strome said. “Especially guys that usually don’t make mistakes, myself included. Just mistakes that cost us. Weak hockey and soft hockey. We know what it takes to be successful…we’ll learn and move on.”
So what will happen now with Filip Forsberg, Phil Kessel, and Jakob Chychrun now that the trade deadline has passed? Read more.
Note: All stats come from nhl.com and hockeyreference.com