Rangers Recall: Bad habits finally catch up to team in Ottawa

The New York Rangers finally got burned in Ottawa for playing like a team devoid of any desire to play defense.

After giving up 5 goals to the San Jose Sharks in a 6-5 win at the Garden on Sunday, the Blueshirts proceeded to again play with a devil-may-care attitude on defense and were properly burned by the Senators on Tuesday in a 6-2 drubbing.

“I think we need to do a better job defensively,” coach Peter Laviolette noted afterwards. “There’s definitely things we did tonight that didn’t give us the best chance to be successful. We gave to many chances coming back off the rush. They’re easy things to fix… but we have to have better reads coming out of their zone. You have to work hard and work smart.”

Let’s review the stinker in Canada’s capital.

Related: Rangers pounded by Senators

Rangers Recall: Bad Habits on Defense

NHL: New York Rangers at Ottawa Senators
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Odd-Man Rushes and Playing Down to their Opponents

Entering the contest against the Senators, the Rangers were near the bottom of the league in odd-man rushes against, at 4.52 per game. That number went up even higher with the way they performed in Ottawa, as they gave up at least a dozen more of those chances.

Excluding the empty-net goal, 2 out of the 5 goals scored against were odd-man rushes. Another 2 goals were off poor coverage down low, and the first score of the game was due to heavy traffic in front.

“We’ll take a look to see what’s happening and make the proper adjustments,” Jacob Trouba acknowledged. “The odd-man rushes are something we can do better. It’s something we’ll address moving forward.”

Early on in the season, the team was still learning Laviolette’s system, as was evident in a poor 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. It was the team’s first loss of the year in just their second game. However, the Rangers started adhering to what the new coaching staff was preaching and went on an absolute tear soon after to become one of the top teams in the league.

As NHL analysts have begun singing the Rangers’ praises, they may be buying into their own hype and likely playing down to their opponents. Of their 5 regulation losses, only 1 team (Dallas Stars) was above .500 when the Rangers went down in defeat.

It’s something the Rangers need to be mindful of going forward, since these are the points you lament not picking up late in the season.

Igor Shesterkin is struggling this season

One growing area of concern this season has been the play of Igor Shesterkin, who is now two seasons removed from the video game numbers he posted to win the Vezina Trophy. While it isn’t fair to compare him today to that 2021-22 season, it is reasonable to look at last year.

According to NHL Edge, Shesterkin’s GAA of 2.48 ranked in the 83rd percentile, his .916 save percentage was at 81, and his high-danger save percentage of .852 was 91st. So far this campaign, his numbers are pedestrian to date. Compared to other goalies, his GAA of 2.75 ranks at 67, and his .911 save percentage ranks him 63rd. Here’s the real glaring issue: with just an .803 save percentage on high-danger chances, Igor is slightly above league average, coming in at the 55th percentile.

While there’s no reason to push the panic button, especially when you consider he missed 16 days in November due to an undisclosed injury, it’s something to monitor. That being said, the Rangers tightening up on defense and reducing odd-man rushes against will help tremendously.

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