Rangers Recall: Slump gets ugly in St. Louis

NHL: New York Rangers at St. Louis Blues
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

They say it’s always darkest before the dawn, but for the New York Rangers, it may get worse before it gets any better. After another miserable defensive performance, littered with some bad penalties, the look of every player’s face on the ice screamed exasperation.

“The mistakes we made were a little bit too big,” Vincent Trocheck explained. “I know what this team is capable of. It’s just some adversity we’re going to have to get through. Hopefully, this is something we look back on and say it was a positive.”

Let’s take a look back at the Rangers latest defeat, a 5-2 loss to the Blues.

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Rangers Recall: Slump gets ugly

NHL: New York Rangers at St. Louis Blues
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Broken Record

At the risk of sounding like a broken record myself, the Blueshirts once again scored first, only to give up a goal soon afterwards. Against the Vancouver Canucks, they gave up the lead less than a minute after Trocheck’s opening tally. They followed that up, with another loose sequence when Jordan Kyrou netted his first of three just 2:11 after Adam Fox opened the scoring in St. Louis.

Head coach Peter Laviolette was repeating himself over and over about mental mistakes in the loss to Vancouver. They spent two days practicing puck management, neutral zone, and defensive zone coverage. Yet, here we are again, with the Rangers seemingly having good intentions, but lacking in execution.

“Guys pressed the entire night,” he said. “I thought our guys played a good first period, but one mistake off the rush and another on the penalty kill, and you’re down. They just couldn’t get it done.”

It also didn’t help that the Rangers looked less engaged than the Blues, who were relentless in all three zones. As has been the case for weeks, the Blueshirts are doing more stick-checking than bodychecking, which led to a parade to the penalty box.

In the loss on Thursday night, the Rangers committed four penalties, with three occurring within 5 minutes of one another in the second period. St. Louis, who have one of the worst ranked power plays in the NHL scored twice, adding more misery to Rangers already vast list of issues.

Lineup Concerns

Just prior to the game, Mika Zibanejad was scratched after being unable to complete warmups due to the flu. That forced the Blueshirts to go with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen.

Needless to say, the Rangers looked disjointed all night.

Losing your best two-way player is going to hurt. Compound that with the fact you’re missing two other top-nine forwards in Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil for months, and it was only a matter of time before this team was going to struggle.

“I think it’s always good for a team to face some adversity,” Laviolette said. “Mika going out, and different things that happen. When it’s not always going your way, isn’t a bad thing to go through. A little adversity in the middle of the year is not the worst thing.”

Igor Shesterkin

There should be no one blaming the Rangers goaltending for this recent skid (0-2-1), however, Igor Shesterkin has struggled this season.

As bad as the Blueshirts’ defense has been at times over recent weeks, it pales in comparison to how bad they were over the last two seasons. Giving up 40 shots per game and a ton of chances from the slot was almost a nightly occurrence at times. Yet, Shesterkin would thrive under the barrage and steal games.

His heroics won him a Vezina Trophy, but also led experts to question the legitimacy of the Rangers as a contender. Now, the Rangers have improved in many areas, but Shesterkin seems to have lost a step.

Is it a major cause concern? I don’t think so. But there’s no doubt it’s something Benoit Allaire needs to figure out with Shesterkin sooner rather than later.

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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