Rangers Recall: Another stinker in loss to Predators

The New York Rangers are what their record says they are, a .500 hockey club.

To date, the Rangers have posted a full 60 minute strong performance to beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-1. They followed that up with a clunker against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but at least pushed back in a 5-3 loss. The Blueshirts also won their home opener versus the Arizona Coyotes 2-1, displaying guts and patience. However, last night, against the Nashville Predators, was an absolute stinker.

Truthfully, the Rangers looked pretty unmotivated trying to get two crucial points before a 5-game western road trip that starts Saturday in Seattle. The end result was a 4-1 loss with very little positives to reflect upon and a 2-2-0 record.

“I thought our speed was off, our compete was off,” said a dejected Peter Laviolette. “We’ve talked about playing a game that goes north fast and took that away from ourselves with puck decisions that slowed things down turning pucks over and going the wrong way.”

Related: Rangers growing pains show in 4-1 loss to Preds

Rangers Recall: A no-compete loss to the Predators

NHL: Nashville Predators at New York Rangers
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Jacob Trouba tells it like it is

Defenseman Jacob Trouba is entering his second season as the New York Rangers captain. He didn’t try to paint a pretty picture after what occurred on home ice Thursday against the Predators.

“Our worst game of the season to this point,” Trouba stated. “I don’t think that’s a game any of us are proud of. I’m not saying that to get on guys or anything, myself included, that’s not a game I’m proud of playing. We’ll address it and move forward.”

Last year, after a December home loss to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks and his team teetering around .500, Trouba exploded. After being tossed out for a big hit and a fight, he launched his helmet at the boards, looked at his bench, and told them to wake up.

The Rangers actually turned their season around, finishing with 107 points good for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Many experts point to that moment as the reason why the group started to gel and play the hockey they’re capable of playing.

Of course, four games into this season isn’t going to get the same reaction from Trouba. However, his teammates should know what’s coming if they don’t get in sync.

Chris Kreider says it isn’t a systems thing

Another veteran leader, and also the longest tenured Blueshirt, Chris Kreider, was asked if the disconnect last night was due to learning a new system.

“Nope, we got the system,” Kreider shot back. “We’ve got to move our feet, win battles, and work smart too. [The Predators] came out of their zone pretty clean. We can’t really establish a forecheck when you give a puck-moving goaltender like [Juuse Saros) opportunities to jumpstart their breakout. It wasn’t just that, as there were a lot of things we could’ve done better.”

This season, Kreider is arguably the team’s best player with 4 goals and 5 points through 4 games. He’s also never been one to mince words, and he clearly called out his own play and that of his team as well.

BUT…. It may be a systems things for some

While I agree with Kreider’s overall assessment that this isn’t a systems issue, there are several players that appear to be struggling with it.

K’Andre Miller and Braden Schneider seem to stand out the most from what I can tell.

Regarding Miller, the issue appears more so on the offensive side where he’s been the culprit of two unforced egregious turnovers. Against the Coyotes, it led to a penalty, and last night versus the Predators, a bad pass as the power play expired led to a breakaway and a backbreaking goal.

This season, Miller just has one assist despite getting increased power play time. He registered a career-high 43 points in 79 games in 2022-23, so it looks like he’s still adjusting.

When it comes to Schneider, the issues are on the defensive side. In particular, how he seems to be out of position and step behind on net-front battles leading a -3 rating to date.

Part of it appears to be adjusting to the new system and reading off his partner. Which leads me to the other likely factor, and that’s Erik Gustafsson. The veteran, for all his offensive strengths, isn’t known for his shutdown abilities. He also’s one of a handful of partners that Schneider has been forced to work with as he enters just his second full NHL season.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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