Getting back to basics and doing the little things right will get any team out of a rut. It appears the New York Rangers are doing so just at the right time.
Coming off the heels of their first two-game win streak of the young NHL season, it appears the New York Rangers have finally found some steam to their games and things seem to be coming together. Keeping one of the highest scoring teams (Tampa Bay) in the NHL to one goal last night was an impressive feat, but it’s certainly not because of the lineup decisions that many of you are questioning, or brand new systems, or a new coaching staff for that matter.
Rather, the Rangers have simplified their game and are doing the little things in the game right that are often times overlooked.
The Rangers came into this season with loads of expectations, and we all know that with great expectations comes great responsibility. Great responsibility also comes with great pressure and through the first twelve games it appeared the Rangers had the weight of the world on their shoulders.
They were trying to force plays that weren’t there. They were trying to out skill teams and out talent teams which wasn’t going well. Take a quick listen to an interview with Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher:
Guy Boucher of @Senators talks about players struggling to score and the importance of being around the net. Gotta love the paint. #PHTOTD pic.twitter.com/Q94D90GiTt
— Pyramid Hockey (@johnbecanic) November 2, 2017
Spot on, Guy.
Ask any coach or someone who knows the game. The simple, little things in the game are always consistent. So if you revert back to doing the basics right night in and night out, that will always make you a competitive team.
Let’s take a look at some of the goals the Rangers have scored in recent games.
Here we see big No. 20 Chris Kreider attacking the front of the net with speed. DJ Mika makes a great saucer pass towards the cage and Kreider gets rewarded with the goal.
No, it wasn’t a fancy toe drag or top corner snipe, but at the end of the night it’s a goal and one that sparked a comeback.
Again, we have big Chris Kreider getting to the net and using his big frame to screen the goalie. Unfortunately, this is a play that Corsi doesn’t recognize and Kreider won’t get a goal or even get on the scoresheet, but this shot does not go in without this screen.
The goalie simply doesn’t move because he has zero idea where the puck is. An underrated, simple play that allows Mika to bury it top shelf.
And finally we have the most recent Rangers goal in which JT Miller takes the puck to the front of the net while driving his legs and moving his feet. Whether or not J.T. knew that Tampa’s Brayden Point (a forward) was the last line of defense is neither here nor there. J.T. goes straight to the dirty area, protects the puck, and buries a goal top shelf.
The little things here folks. Getting bodies to the net, taking the puck to the dirty areas of the ice. That’s whats going to get this team on track. The Rangers don’t have the luxury of a Connor McDavid or an Auston Matthews that can help out skill opposing teams. But getting away from a soft perimeter game and becoming a more hard nosed dirty areas team is what is going to benefit this club more.
The same goes for the defensive zone play and goaltending.
Henrik Lundqvist talks about it in all of his postgame interviews. He talks about his decision making and his movements. At this point, he looks much more settled in his crease, making less movements and making an aggressive line at the puck. It’s evident he feels more comfortable and is thinking less in there. Holding a team averaging four goals a game to one goal is your evidence.
Defensively, the group seems to be looking less for home run outlet passes, and more for the simple 8-10 feet support passes that allow a team to break out of a zone.
Fourteen games into the season and the Rangers are still searching for their true game. It may be the case that come April we look back on these experiences and say they were a blessing in disguise for this club. The Rangers have “peaked” too early before in regular season play, when the ultimate goal is to peak come playoff time, somewhat like the Los Angeles Kings did, winning the cup as an eight seed in the old playoff format.
It’s clear the Rangers don’t have the talent to win on talent alone, they will need to focus on the simple plays and the small details on the ice to continue to turn this ship around.