One of the best rules that the NHL has in place is the mandatory break for Christmas, and boy do the New York Rangers need it right now more than ever.
This break could not have come at a more perfect time for the New York Rangers who’ve looked gassed over the last couple of weeks.
After Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Rangers completed a stretch where they played 10 games in 19 days including a stretch where they played four games in seven nights. The schedule has been beneficial for them in the early part of the season so they were due to have a heavy schedule at some point, lucky for them this break will give them time to rest up.
The heavy schedule in December has slowly started to show in the Rangers play. They haven’t been as crisp with the puck and keep going for the big play instead of making the small simple play. They have been careless with the puck and have put Henrik Lundqvist in situations to face high-quality scoring chances.
One major flaw in their game that has become visible over the last week is the number of shots they’ve allowed on goal. This has been evident over the Rangers last week or so they haven’t put their goalie, whether it is Lundqvist or Ondrej Pavelec, in a position to succeed. They have allowed at least 40 shots in five of the 11 games played including 45 shots on goal in three of those games. This break allows for Lundqvist and Pavelec, especially Lundqvist who has faced 125 shots in his last three games.
Turnovers have been a major area of concern for the Rangers over the last month and a half. They lead the NHL with 523 giveaways this season. Twenty-four of those giveaways have come in the month of December. This trend is worrisome but fixable and perhaps the two full days the team has off will allow them to give them the mental break they need and they can get back to making the proper decisions with the puck.
If there is anyone who is happy that this break is here, that person is Kevin Shattenkirk.
The month of December has not been too kind to the 28-year-old defenseman. Defensively, Shattenkirk has been a liability for the team and has been moved down in the lineup by head coach Alain Vigneault during crunch time. Shatty has been the victim of taking some bad penalties on top of the bad giveaway that leads to a goal. Although he just has 12 giveaways in the last 11 games, the timing of them is the reason he is a minus three in that span. The break should provide the Rangers best offensive defenseman time to hit the restart button and get back to the player the Rangers saw in the beginning of the season.
During this break, perhaps head coach Alain Vigneault might be able to try and fix the Rangers struggling power-play. This month alone the Rangers power-play is 20th in the league converting at a 15.6 percent clip. Vigneault can take some time to look at the video and make the proper adjustments so their power-play can become a threat once again.
This month has been the busiest month of the season for the Rangers, and it’s only going to get even busier. They’ve weathered the storm going 6-3-2, but they still have two games remaining in the calendar year.
The timing of this break is perfect, but the team must come out of it having corrected the flaws that saw them lose their last two games.