Rangers fall to Avalanche, but please stop complaining about a 17-7-3 team
Last night, the Rangers lost their legs after the first period and met an opponent who was desperate for a win. The end result was a 2-1 loss at home following an emotional rivalry game against the Islanders.
While there are genuine concerns with this team, especially the faltering play of almost every single Rangers defenseman not named Dylan McIlrath, things aren’t that bleak. Let’s try and put this recent 6 game stretch where the Rangers are 1-4-1 into perspective.
Last year the Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy for most points in the NHL during the regular season. That team was average at best with a record of 13-10-4 after 27 games. This Rangers team is well ahead of that pace at 17-7-3.
Now, many are pointing to fancy stats saying “I told you so” and that their record to date is all smoke and mirrors (or as PDO suggests, Goaltending and Luck). Sorry, but I don’t buy it. This is what is known as a slump and unfortunately it’s to simplistic a word that sums up the Rangers recent play for higher intellects with spreadsheets to understand.
The Presidents’ Trophy Rangers had two 3 game losing streaks (1 all in regulation). They also has nine 2 game losings streaks (6 all in regulation) with 3 of those 9 coming after they hit their stride in December by winning 8 in a row and 12 out of 13.
This season’s addition of the Blueshirts has already amassed a 9 game winning streak and went a stretch of winning 13 out of 15. Now they also have matched last year’s two 3 game losing streaks (1 all in regulation) and could be adding a third with any type of loss to Ottawa on Sunday. Is it time to panic? Is this team just a giant lie? The answer is no on all counts.
This poor run defensively, which became noticeable during the Rangers win streak is all correctable. Matter of fact, I will say that after the sloppy win against the Hurricanes, they’ve played decent as a unit of five with room for improvement. The previous game against the Flyers looked eerily similar to last night’s contest against the Avalanche, which was also the 2nd game of a back to back after an emotional loss to the Bruins.
5 Games in 7 Days!
That is not an excuse, just a fact. The Blueshirts have played a lot of hockey and in the process lost their #2 center, Derek Stepan and one of their better playing defenseman in Kevin Klein.
Chris Kreider continues to be virtually non-existent and if not for the play of Oscar Lindberg who has picked up the slack, I do wonder where we would be. Many complain about Dan Girardi (primarily those in the analytics world), which has blinded them to the abysmal play of Ryan McDonagh who was caught flat footed on the Avalanches’ first goal last night as he has become a turnover and missed assignment machine lately.
Even more concerning has been the play of Marc Staal who simply is making mistake after mistake. His reads and outlet passes appear to be slipping and along with Dan Girardi are both a -5 during this slump. Girardi’s is more acceptable because he’s playing more minutes against tougher competition, however it’s still inexcusable. The biggest issue for me is down the road due to their contracts, but for this season they can get better.
Even with all these injuries and woeful play, the Rangers are in a great position. Both Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta have been solid to spectacular this year. Mats Zuccarello appears to be emerging as the 2nd best forward behind Rick Nash and Oscar Lindberg is trying to get his name in there for Rookie of the Year. On defense, Dylan McIlrath is showing that he belongs not only in the NHL but in the Rangers lineup.
Furthermore, the Rangers have experience, stability and leadership behind the bench. Alain Vigneault knows what he’s doing and nobody from a Spreadsheet Samurai to a Couch Potato Coach has the credentials or ability to do better.
This Rangers team is essentially the same group that won best overall record last year. They have 17 wins in 27 games and are already 7 points ahead of that pace. While things aren’t going great in the last 6 games, it doesn’t mean they won’t turn it around.
Actually, considering the track record of this group…I know they will.