The New York Rangers have played 42 games this season and as they enjoy a much-needed break this week, a breakdown of what we have learned at the halfway mark of the season is on tap.
The first half of the 2017-2018 New York Rangers season has been a roller-coaster ride—not one of those great new enjoyable roller coasters like the Joker at Six Flags. Rather, like the runaway train roller coaster making the average thrill-seeker sick and aggravated for much of the ride.
The Rangers started the year off 3-7-2, went on a six-game winning streak, which was followed by some average hockey. Currently, the Rangers have only won three times in their last eight games. The offense is once again becoming invisible as they have only scored 11 goals in the last seven games.
The Rangers are currently 22-15-5, fourth place in the Metro Division while representing the first wild-card position in the Eastern Conference. The power play, once thriving as high as fifth place in the NHL, is now ranked 15th.
It’s like watching your child on a merry-go-round, never knowing when or where you will see him next.
Alain Vigneault has spoken about how crucial it is to find the right chemistry with his four lines, yet he doesn’t seem to have the patience to let the line’s gel together in order to find that chemistry he’s desperately looking for. The game the Rangers played in Las Vegas on Sunday night wrapped up the problem most fans have with Vigneault this season.
With the team lacking in the scoring department, Vigneault bench’s the team’s third-leading scorer on the team, Pavel Buchnevich. He inserts forward Vinni Lettieri into the lineup to replace him while placing Paul Carey, who has played on the fourth line all year, on the second line. He also sat defenseman Brendan Smith and replaced him with Steven Kampfer, who had not played in the last 16 games.
All of this against the team with the best home record, the team in first place, the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Still wondering what’s wrong with the Rangers?
Up and down we go on this crazy ride …
The defense, which looked great on paper in the offseason has been a nightmare on the ice. Kevin Shattenkirk has shown more times than not that he is an excellent offensive threat for the Rangers. Unfortunately, his defensive ability has been subpar. The Rangers have been unable all season to find a steady pair of defensemen who can stay together longer than about two periods.
Then we have the elephant in the room. The turnovers. The many, many turnovers.
The Rangers are their own worst enemy most times. It seems whenever the team turns the puck over it turns into a goal against or at the very least a high-quality scoring chance. It has been a constant problem all year and for some reason, no resolution is readily available.
Up we go, to the goaltenders.
The bright spot of this year’s team. Henrik Lundqvist has played in 35 games this season with a 19-10-4-2 record. His practice counterpart, Ondrej Pavelec, has appeared in 10 games with a 3-5-1-1 record. Pavelec’s record does not reflect how well he has played for the Rangers.
The injuries continue to take a toll on the team.
Mika Zibanejad missed nine games with a concussion, Jesper Fast missed three with a quad injury, Chris Kreider is out indefinitely with a blood clot issue in his right arm and Sunday night in Las Vegas Kevin Hayes left the game early in the first with a lower-body injury.
So what have we learned?
The Rangers, like a roller coaster going up and down, play well at one point of a game then revert back to making the same horrible mistakes in the same game. The coaching staff likes to change things around much too often and for some reason doesn’t give its star player, Pavel Buchnevich, the opportunity to take off and be that great scorer he certainly has the potential to be.
This club is not a Stanley Cup caliber team. The coach has no confidence in several of the players especially back up Ondrej Pavelec. That’s obvious just by looking at the number of games Lundqvist has played already. The team has too many question marks on defense, not enough scoring on offense. It seems quite often that Vigneault just a few games away from handing the team over to Lindy Ruff.
The Rangers should be able to secure a playoff spot, but that is not the goal of the organization. For now, this team has shown its resiliency, but lack of skill on both sides of the ice will prevent the New York Rangers from going deep into the playoffs when they begin in April.