With the New York Rangers in an extended slump, fans are turning to cliches and myths rationalize the situation. But it’s time for the truth.
Every New York Rangers‘ fan has a ritual that they follow when watching a game.
Some fans have to wear a specific jersey; others have to sit on the same spot on the couch every night.
My own ritual usually centers on sitting down with a cold beverage and my IPad so I can converse with other fans, usually on Twitter.
Talking with other fans is therapeutic for me because I can speak with other die hard Ranger fans that are experiencing similar emotions that I usually am.
Hockey in general is not the type of sport where fair weather fans will sound off on social media, and Ranger fans in particular know how the game of hockey works.
But lately a common theme has been discussed amongst the Ranger faithful and experts alike that I believe is a myth.
The myth takes on various forms, but the underlying message is the same:
“The Rangers just need to make it to the playoffs. They’ll turn it on once they’re there in April”
“They have Henrik and as long as they make it to the playoffs, they’ll be fine”
Even Craig Carton of the WFAN radio show Boomer & Carton said this morning:
“Don’t worry (Ranger fans), you’ll be happy come May”
There are four reasons why these myths are false:
The Play of Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider:
Kevin Hayes has four points in his last 16 games and Chris Kreider has five points in his last 15.
For someone who had multiple NHL teams wining and dining him for his services a little over a year ago, Hayes’ play has been absolutely unacceptable.
As for Kreider, he can be described using any combination of nouns and adjectives including: lost, disinterested, soft, lackluster, etc.
A telltale sign to whether a player will eventually produce is their net presence. Simply put: Are they going hard to the net?
Right now the answer is no, and it is this net presence that is usually the biggest attribute of both players.
Kevin Hayes has developed a bad habit of over-handling the puck. There are times when he looks like a player from a video game, making fancy spins and plays only to turn over the puck to the opponent.
Rather than leveraging his size to put himself or teammates in a better scoring position, Hayes seem intent on just showing off his stick handling skills around the parameter of the offensive zone.
Remember when Kreider developed a reputation for being a “goalie killer” during the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago? That player was a force to be reckoned with, and has been missing for about 3 months.
Kreider and Hayes are experiencing similar problems. They’re not going to the net and look lazy on the ice.
In order for teams to “turn it on” come playoff time, there need to be small flashes of brilliance from your stronger players throughout the regular season.
This remains to be seen from Hayes and Kreider, who are supposed to be two of the Rangers top contributors on the score sheet.
Hank was unbelievable for the first two months and we knew he wasn’t going to post a .94 save percentage for the entire season. But he has let in some untimely and uncharacteristically soft goals the past couple weeks.
Chris Porter’s goal in the 3rd period of last night’s game is a prime example:
Listen, Lundqvist did come in cold after the Antti Raanta injury but that just can’t be an excuse when a team is playing this poorly. He just needs to stop that shot and others like it.
If other players take their lumps when they make mistakes, The King needs to as well.
Blown Assignments in the Slot:
This problem has been discussed ad nauseam, but it is a serious problem. Minnesota Wild players were left basically untouched in the slot three times last night, which directly led to three goals.
Here is one example:
This is absolutely brutal.
To see so many Rangers standing around with two opponents in the slot is inexcusable. These are basic mistakes and it boggles the mind why it obviously has not been addressed.
Don’t be fooled, this is not a talent issue; it is simple positioning and coverage. If the Rangers continue to play like this, they will not make the playoffs.
The 2014 Los Angeles Kings Argument:
When debating this issue people often turn to the 2014 LA Kings run, and Ranger fans know this one all too well.
The Kings even encountered some stretches during that season that look similar to the Rangers current slump.
The Kings had a stretch of 10 games where they only won one game.
So how is this losing streak which came later in the season different from our current Ranger team? Let’s take a look at the Kings roster from that season:
That’s a lot of experience and talent.
What most people also forget is that the Kings had a 3 goalie rotation which made it possible for Jonathon Quick to play only 49 regular season games.
I’m not saying that the Rangers cannot become a team that “turns it on” or “only needs to make it to the playoffs.”
Simply stated, the way the Rangers are playing right now with the lack of production from key players, the “turn it on” and “just make it to the playoff” arguments are just myths.
Whether the Blueshirts can turn these into a reality remains to seen, and I’d love to be proven wrong.