The New York Rangers have treated their fans to quite a roller coaster ride over the past week. Should fans be worried?
By Chris Wengert
If you can believe it, just 16 games stand between your New York Rangers and the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That’s an exciting, yet sobering thought given the Rangers latest performances and roster situation.
But let’s take emotion out of the equation for a moment (well, we’ll try) and take a look at the current state of Rangerstown.
So, should fans be worried?
The Blueshirts have a semi-firm grasp on second place in the Metropolitan Division with 82 points which puts them three points ahead of the New York Islanders, who have three games in hand.
Those three games are what made Sunday night’s loss so frustrating, as a possible two points for the Rangers basically became a four point swing in the other direction.
If the regular season ended today, here is what the playoff picture would look like.
Subway series anybody?
Needless to say, the remaining 16 games on the Rangers schedule are of the utmost importance, not just to cement a playoff berth, but to recoup a roster that has been bitten by an injury bug.
Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal are both day to day with neck and back spasms, respectively. While missing time in April shouldn’t be a concern for either player, fans need to keep their fingers crossed that Hank won’t lose much performance-wise following the injury.
After all, a few extra days off could be a good thing for The King.
Sooner would be better than later though, because Antti Raanta has demonstrated that he is highly unreliable. No, the first three goals of the Islander game were not his fault, but the fourth and fifth goals were brutal.
The real concern is Rick Nash, who Alain Vigneault labeled as day to day barring a setback. That is good news, but if Nash returns to the lineup at anything other than 100% health it certainly won’t help the Rangers playoff chances much.
Rangers’ fans are an emotional and passionate bunch, especially after a loss.
Comments on places like twitter often range from irrational to downright nonsensical, and hey, we’ve all been there. But there has been one common theme resonating from the Rangers fan-o-sphere that is legitimate , and it pertains to Alain Vigneault’s roster decisions.
To be honest, I had no problem with Kevin Hayes’ demotion to the fourth line during the Washington game. While he eventually earned his way back to the third line against the Isles, Hayes’ play has been uninspiring as a whole.
J.T. Miller isn’t off of the hook either, who has followed up a hot streak with a disappearing act.
But why did AV demote Miller to the fourth line during the Islander game? How is that supposed to help him break out of a slump?
While I appreciate Vigneault’s attempt at accountability, it seems to come at the oddest of times, with some odd/random player choices.
Dan Boyle, Marc Staal, and Dan Girardi all experienced some downright horrible stretches of hockey, but they never missed a shift.
AV has become almost, dare I say, John Tortorella-esque in his approach. Remember when Torts would sit Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello at the drop of a pin?
The bottom line is that the Rangers need their lines to be firing on all cylinders come April. If Rick Nash can return conditioned and Eric Staal is able to have a mini-renaissance, the stars just might align at the right time.
Outside of these personnel issues, there are two chronic problems that could end up biting the Rangers in the playoffs:
They consistently allow teams to either score in bunches, or in the closing minutes of the game.
The Rangers must have been feeling generous Sunday night, because they allowed the Isles to capitalize on both of these vulnerabilities.
Mark my words, the Rangers won’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs if these problems go unattended to.
So should we make of all of this? What is the current state of Rangerstown?
With the return of some of the Rangers best players on the horizon, I say there is reason to be optimistic.
While I wouldn’t want to playoffs to start today, there is no need to that panic button just yet Rangers’ fans.