The New York Rangers had hoped January would be a month filled with wins, instead, it served as a reminder of the problems they’ve had all along.
A 12-game month of January might have crushed the New York Rangers. The team had issues scoring goals, their defensemen continued to commit costly turnovers and their line-changing head coach continued to kill the chemistry he insists he’s searching for. As a result, the Rangers went 5-7, picked up 10 of a possible 24 points and are now are on the outside of the playoff picture.
A 3-2 overtime win over Buffalo in the Winter Classic got things going in the right direction, but it was ultimately the high point in a disappointing month.
When the calendar flipped to 2018 the Rangers has a record of 20-13-5. Just 30 days later, they sit with a record of 25-20-5, in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild-card spot. How did things spin out of control so fast?
Great goaltending has masked the problems that have plagued the Rangers all season long. No, the problems didn’t begin in January—they were just magnified over the course of the month.
Getting just five wins in 12 games is hard to deal with. What makes those wins even more concerning is that three of them came against two of the worst teams in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres (two) and Arizona Coyotes (one). It wasn’t until Thursday’s win over San Jose that the Blueshirts beat a team with a winning record.
Think about that for a second. Then think about how the goal scoring, outside of Rick Nash (six, four on the road trip), Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller (four each), completely disappeared.
The Rangers are going to have to find a way to get the forwards going if they are going to get back into the race.
Defensemen continue to leave opponents open in front of the net, resulting in easy goals against. Kevin Shattenkirk announced that he tore his meniscus earlier in the season and it would now require surgery, he will be out indefinitely. Rangers defensemen have not been putting points up at even strength or on the power play.
Henrik Lundqvist has played very well this season but has struggled lately due to getting little help from the players in front of him. Hank had four wins in January and despite his best effort, he was pulled from the game in the loss to the Anaheim Ducks last Tuesday night. Ondrej Pavelec took over for Hank in the Ducks game, then started and won the game at San Jose 6-5 on Thursday night, the team’s only win on the road trip.
When January began the Rangers penalty killing was ranked fifth in the NHL. At the conclusion of Thursday’s game, the penalty killing dropped down to 15th in the league. The strongest area in the Rangers’ game betrayed them. The power play had been non-existent since mid-November and continued to fall this month, ranking 13th in the NHL.
Now that play in the month of January is over, The Rangers will have a week off and can look at ahead to see what can be done to improve this team. General manager Jeff Gorton and the organization must get together and decide who to trade or not trade to make this team better not just for this season but for the seasons ahead.
The high hopes of January were demolished as the team underperformed. Luckily for the Rangers as bad as their play was this month they still remain in the playoff chase. The team now needs to move on from January with the hope that they don’t repeat the same mistakes that cost them so many needed points in the standings.