Rangers Recall: Mediocre and sloppy hockey has become a trend lately

Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers came up short in Montreal, losing to the Canadiens by a 4-3 score in the shootout. While you can point to the goaltending of Sam Montembeault, who stopped 45 shots and all three in the skills competition, the Blueshirts shouldn’t have been down 3-0 against the 25th ranked team in the NHL to begin with.

“I thought we had a ton of chances and [Montembeault] played really well,” coach Peter Laviolette said afterwards. “It was an entertaining game. But there’s definitely some things we could clean up, I think, from turnovers to the defensive zone.”

That tune sung by the Rangers head coach is starting to sound like a broken record lately.

According to the final official stat line, the Blueshirts committed an alarming 17 giveaways against the Canadiens. Not managing the puck well has been a serious issue, and has played a role in their 2-2-1 record over the last 5 games.

Let’s dive deeper into the Rangers loss on Saturday night in Montreal.

Related: Adam Fox needs to return to pre-injury form

Rangers Recall: Sloppy hockey

NHL: New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers not playing consistent defensively

It was highly unlikely that the Rangers were going to be able to sustain the level of play they displayed from October 25th to December 3rd. During that time, the Blueshirts were 16-2-1, and firing on all cylinders.

However, towards the end of that stretch, the Rangers started to open up their game more, as was evident in their 6-5 win over the lowly San Jose Sharks on December 3rd. In seeking more offense, it resulted in their first, and only, set of consecutive losses to the Ottawa Senators (6-2, 12/5) and Washington Capitals (4-0, 12/9). Including those defeats, New York is 8-6-1 in their last 15 games.

While Laviolette has not gone on a tirade publicly, he’s certainly voiced his displeasure with the team’s play in many post game pressers. Here’s several select quotes after losses:

“I think we need to do a better job defensively. There’s definitely things we did tonight that didn’t give us the best chance to be successful. We gave too 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.” (12/5/23, 6-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators)

“We had a breakdown in the neutral on one of the goals and in front of the net on another. I thought through the course of the game, [Shesterkin] made some big saves. I believe everything is cyclical, and I think there’s things we can do better in front of him. We’ll continue to work on it.” (12/12/23, 7-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs)

“I thought we were missing energy the entire night… We didn’t have the pop that we needed, and when we did, we started going east to west and started turning pucks over.” (12/22/23, 4-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers)

“If I am going to go after a period, it’s the third. I hated it… It’s not who we are or who we want to be.” (1/2/24, 6-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes)

Simply put, the Rangers have gotten away from playing the structured hockey that made them one of the most formidable teams in the NHL from late October through November.

On Monday, the Blueshirts will need to regain that form if they hope to beat the Pacific Division leading Vancouver Canucks, who are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. It starts by taking care of the puck, playing more north to south, and remembering to take care of their own zone first.

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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