Fixing the Rangers after a “total disaster”

Ryan Callahan scores his 2nd goal against his former team 11.17.14 (Photo: Jared Silber/Getty Images)

Ryan Callahan scores his 2nd goal against his former team 11.17.14 (Photo: Jared Silber/Getty Images)

After last night’s loss, I’m scrapping the traditional Fulltilt post game to focus on the only thing that mattered after the game – the reaction of the coach and the players.

REACTIONS

Let’s begin with the most important person, head coach Alain Vigneault:

Alain Vigneault after a "total disaster" 11.18.14 (MSG)

Alain Vigneault after a “total disaster” 11.18.14 (MSG)

“It’s very tough to explain. We had a good start to the game and then they scored that goal,  they seemed to get momentum. We had a good start in the second, forced them into a few penalties and then they scored. Other than the start of both periods, everything in between was just a total disaster. There was turnovers and we made it easy on the opposition on their breakouts and everything in between.” 

First off, all of AV’s quotes were pulled off of Andrew Gross’ Ranger Rants which you can read here. What is really hard for Alain Vigneault to explain is the effort, focus and compete level his team is required to put in every game. This is not dissimilar to the difficulties the team had last year.

This next quote is in response to what was also a similar question last year about his “system”.

“No. We applied the system in Pittsburgh and on nights we apply it and we apply it consistently from shift to shift,” Vigneault said as he left that thought unfinished.  “Tonight we applied it at the start of the game and then for whatever reason…”

At this point, AV was getting increasingly frustrated talking about it. Again, the team doesn’t seem to have the focus required for a full 60 minutes. Why is that? Vigneault continued.

“We definitely have to as a group,  find the solutions to it because we’re a .500 hockey team right now and .500 is not going to get us into the playoffs. Puck management, one-on-one situations, A B C or D, pick one.”

Now we are at the heart of the situation. You see, this is not a singular problem, its a multitude of them. In addition, this can’t be isolated to one player or one play at any given point and time. To a man the Rangers needs to apply themselves for a full 60 minutes.

Now let’s go to Martin St. Louis, who has most definitely been acting as captain since Ryan McDonagh went down. This quote come from the MSG feed.

“You know you’re not going to win every game. You can live with yourself losing games when you know you played the right way. I don’t know how we can live with that one.”

Wow! That’s a heck of statement but it hits the nail on the head. MSL was referring to the absolute poor effort from start to finish. Although he cited himself as someone who needs to be better, he called out his whole team.

So what’s really the problem?

What AV mentioned before is all X’s and O’s in game execution and it is spot on. Marty’s comments are also on point because it takes effort and commitment to execute. But the Rangers have genuine issues from last season to this year.

1. HEALTH – They have only played 2 periods with all their top players in the lineup this season. No, it won’t solve all their issues but it is a big reason why they are a .500 hockey team.

2. CHEMISTRY – As a byproduct of health issues and roster turnover this past summer, the Blueshirts have had to mix and match all year. Their defense is a prime example of almost a new pairing or two a week. Today, AV is revamping his lines for what has to be the 12th time in 17 games.

3. DEFENSE -The only changes here from last year’s Finals team is Dan Boyle in for Anton Stralman and Matt Hunwick for Justin Falk. We can all agree Hunwick is better than Falk, and Stralman is better defensively than Boyle. That’s a fair assessment now, but can we give Dan Boyle a week to get back into game shape.

Regardless, these guys need to be a lot more competitive and alert in the defensive zone. Blame the injuries all you want, they need to improve. Also in fairness, too many NYR forwards are flying the zone instead of supporting down low. It starts from your net out – always.

4. PERSONNEL – The Rangers took a hit this summer. Brad Richards and Brian Boyle left HUGE holes to be filled. How did the Rangers replace them? Boyle was replaced by a 19 year old kid that needs to be on one of the top two lines, in Anthony Duclair. Brian Boyle was also the 5th center on the team and was used with D. Moore in crucial defensive zone draw situations. Sometimes, he was sent out to win a draw and hop off immediately for a more offensive forward. The Rangers no longer have this luxury. Instead they have a kid, who is playing 3rd line minutes with another kid who they forced to be a center in Kevin Hayes.

Hayes, who is a winger, can’t win a draw and is being asked to do too much in a role he doesn’t appear to comfortable in. He also isn’t the swiftest skater and has been flanked by Lee Stempniak often, who isn’t a speed demon either. Yes, Brad Richards was old and slow, but he was protected on a 2nd or 3rd line by speed wingers Carl Hagelin and Marty St. Louis. Plus, he could win his share of faceoffs. This lack of depth down the middle is a big concern.

How about the loss of Pouliot? Lee Stempniak has more goals than Pouliot and costs 3 million less, but Benoit had chemistry with Brass and Zucc, and that’s now a line gone. As for Tanner Glass replacing Derek Dorsett, if we are claiming this to be what ails us – then this team is in more trouble than I thought.

5. PATIENCE – The NY Rangers were a sub-par hockey team for two months, an average team for an additional month and an exceptional team the rest of the way. While, this team has a major problem down the middle, the top 3 issues named above can be corrected and quickly.

The Rangers have to make a move, it’s apparent now. No, the move isn’t sitting Tanner Glass or playing Anthony Duclair. The move is acquiring a capable 3rd line center who can play 12-15 minutes a night and win over 50% of their draws. If puck possession is such an issue, winning face-offs is a good place to start.

Now is not the time to panic Rangers fans. We did it last year and in the long run, we were silly for doing so. Believe in the man behind the bench who got us there. Alain Vigneault and this organization have earned the benefit of the doubt, give it to them.

Today after practice the theme for Vigneault was simple, “we better respond, we have to be better.”
TOTAL DISASTER INTERVIEWS

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore