New York Rangers still working through inconsistencies

rangers vs sabres
Mar 2, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers right wing Pavel Buchnevich (middle) celebrates with left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) and center Mika Zibanejad (93) after scoring a goal against the Buffalo Sabres at 28 seconds of the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett-POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers played the Bruins on both Friday and Sunday, winning the first match but losing the second. They looked like a completely different team on each of these days. On Friday they showcased their skill and ability to compete with the top teams in the NHL. On Sunday, however, they lost some of the intensity that made them so successful two days earlier.

Playing a heavy game was a key for the Rangers

The Bruins play a heavy style of hockey that combined with their skill and speed, makes them a tough team to play against. On Friday, the Rangers met that level of physicality. They came out with a sense of urgency and delivered some big hits. Most notably, Ryan Lindgren’s hit on David Pastrnak.

The Rangers were credited with 32 hits total for the game. They were able to emerge victorious by a score of 6-2 by playing that heavy game and bringing an intensity level that the Bruins may not have necessarily been expecting.

On Sunday, the Bruins came out with much more energy. The Rangers were unable to match the Bruins’ energy level or the one the Rangers themselves had brought to the previous game. They did not abandon the physical game as they were credited with 37 hits, however it was not enough to match the Bruins’ 43.

While the Bruins were skating and making plays, the Rangers appeared to be almost standing still at times. Lindgren was a target for the Bruins considering the impact he had had during the previous match. A big part of Lindgren’s game is physicality. This was something he was kept from doing as effectively on Sunday.

Additionally, he is always game for a fight but not necessarily the best fighter. The Rangers require a solid fighter for success especially in this shortened season where they see the same teams over and over again. The willingness is there in Lindgren and Brendan Lemieux, however concerns lie in Lindgren’s fighting ability and Lemieux’s size.

The question begs to be asked if there’s someone within the organization better equipped to handle those duties. Also, would it even be worth trying to acquire such a player with the direction of the game today.

A clear difference in defense and the power play

The Rangers’ defense has been an element that has shown great improvement from last year. It along with the penalty kill has been a consistent strength for the team this season. But it seemed to falter a bit against the Bruins on Sunday. It’s true they are without Jacob Trouba, however this was not their first game missing him. They appeared slightly out of position at times which led to chances for the Bruins.

K’Andre Miller has been a particularly exciting player to watch on defense this season. He was beaten twice in the first period. He did improve as the game progressed though, using his size and reach to his advantage.

new york rangers

The Rangers’ power play has struggled overall so far this season, however it was starting to get some life. They scored a power play goal on Friday against the Bruins, going one for four. They were also two for eight in the 4-3 loss against the Flyers on Wednesday.

However, they were held to none on Sunday. The Rangers currently rank 27th in the league on the power play at just 14.9%. Mika Zibanejad has looked somewhat unsure of himself on the power play. He’s missing the net more than usual and even fanning on some shots. He has struggled to score so far this season, so one has to wonder where is his confidence level is at. His play in the defensive and neutral zones has been more like what we’re used to seeing from him though.

Picking up the leadership slack with Trouba and Panarin out

The Rangers have two of their four alternate captains out: Jacob Trouba with an injury and Artemi Panarin taking a leave of absence. After the news broke about the Panarin situation, Chris Kreider was asked about it in a press conference and stated that he would not “try to be Artemi Panarin.” He proceeded to record four goals in the next two games and has six in his last five. But he didn’t do this by trying to be Panarin. He played a solid Chris Kreider style of hockey meaning he got in front of the net and was able to get results. This demonstrates leadership.

With Trouba and Panarin out and Zibanejad not producing, the Rangers need someone to be that voice. Kreider has shown through his statements in press conferences that he can be that voice. He has also been able to set an example on the ice with his effort and recent goal production. However, Kreider was not as prominent against the Bruins on Sunday. An effective leader is a consistent one. Therefore, this remains an inconsistency that needs to be sorted out.

Last night against the Sabres, Kreider was skating hard and noticeable all night. Things appear to be going in the right direction, that’s if they can beat the Devils tomorrow.

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