New York Rangers still trying to play a complete game

The New York Rangers opened their four-game West Coast road trip with an overtime loss against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday night. Inconsistency has plagued the Rangers throughout this season.

A major reason for the outcome in Seattle was not playing a full 60 minutes. Improving here will be a key to success for the remainder of the trip. They will also benefit from continuing to receive contributions from up and down the lineup.

“There was a lot of opportunities to put a stamp on this game,” Chris Kreider explained after the OT loss. “It’s a long change (in the second period) that somehow makes us think we can open it up. But we got away from the stuff we did well in the first and then they come right on back into the game.”

New York Rangers need a full 60

sammy blais new york rangers
Nov 17, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Kraken defenseman Justin Schultz (4) battles for the puck against New York Rangers forward Ryan Carpenter (22) and forward Sammy Blais (91) during the second period at Climate Pledge Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

In the previous two games against Seattle and the Arizona Coyotes, the Rangers have gotten off to slow starts. They only recorded four shots in the first period against the Coyotes while giving up 17. Igor Shesterkin stood tall, stopping all 17 shots to give the Rangers a chance. The team did respond in the second and third periods to win the game 4-1. However, Shesterkin cannot be relied upon to keep the Rangers in the game like this every night. A stronger forecheck and more pressure early on are needed.

Seattle presented a similar problem. The Rangers allowed an early goal, but they were able to build momentum regardless. Momentum shifted between teams during the period, but the Rangers outshot the Kraken 14-6, and Mika Zibanejad tied the game on the power play. The demonstrated chemistry and cohesion on that power play, with Zibanejad scoring off of a clean pass from Chris Kreider, who got the puck from Vincent Trocheck with a crafty kick, was good to see.

This time, the issue of not playing a full 60 minutes showed up largely in the second period. The Kraken outshot the Rangers 16-5 during those twenty minutes, and Shesterkin once again stood out, stopping all 16 shots including two on breakaways. Defensive lapses and lack of pressure led to these breakaway scoring chances. The difference in play between the first two periods was too great. Seattle brought energy and a sense of urgency that the Rangers could not match. Going forward, the Rangers should focus on playing with the same effort period to period.

“First period was great, second period was awful, and the third period was pretty even,” Gerard Gallant said. “There was some good stuff, but there was some bad stuff in the second period that we got away from what we did in the first period. [Shesterkin] kept us in the game and we found a way to get a point but it’s not good enough. We’re better than that.”

Contributions from the entire lineup

Filip Chytil had the Rangers’ lone goal against the Nashville Predators last Saturday with Kaapo Kakko picking up an assist. Alexis Lafrenière, Chytil and Kakko have all shown improvements so far this season, clearly playing with more confidence. If they can continue to bring significant effort each night, more points will come. This is a huge piece of the Rangers’ development into a complete cup contender.

In the Rangers’ 4-1 win over the Coyotes, Barclay Goodrow opened the scoring. Goals by Fox, Kreider, and Ryan Carpenter followed. Chytil assisted on Fox’s goal, and Braden Schneider and Jimmey Vesey did so on Carpenter’s goal. Goodrow has nine points on the season, Carpenter has two, and Vesey has five. Their production against Arizona was encouraging. The same can be said for Braden Schneider as a young defenseman.

The third and fourth lines often contribute physically. Sammy Blais, for example, has 55 hits through his 15 games. These kinds of contributions are necessary but getting points from the bottom six as well can certainly help the team progress.

“I see some bright spots. He’s playing well but it was a major injury,” Gallant said. “I’ve seen the last four or five games, he’s played better hockey and it’s coming. Be big, physical, bumping, finishing checks, going to net and showing good hands. That’s what he can do for us.”

Whether the contributions come in the form of points or physical play, every player needs to be bringing something substantial to every game. This and playing a full game every night are two steps towards returning to contender form. Both factors make the team more complete. Despite the disappointing start to the western road trip, the Rangers have an opportunity to regroup and recover.

Note: All stats come from nhl.com and hockeyreference.com

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