The New York Rangers are on their couches, not on the ice as the playoffs are underway leaving the question, what can they learn from watching?
Teams steal philosophies from other teams and with the New York Rangers not in the playoffs, they can do some learning from the comfort of their own couches.
The playoffs are weeks in, giving Rangers fans a glimpse of what it would have taken for this team to compete if they made it. That glimpse is a scary one because the Rangers are clearly nowhere near ready to be a playoff team again. Should they have made the postseason, they would have ended up facing the Kings or Ducks, likely heading home after just four games.
We have seen plenty of quality games thus far, and they all have consisted of different areas of focus. Each series feels different than the other, and the way each series has been played is unique.
Defense Wins Championships
Look no further than the Vegas Golden Knights for this theory; defense wins championships. In their series sweep of the Los Angeles Kings, Vegas only allowed three goals. Marc Andre Fleury had two shutouts and each game was decided by one goal.
If anything is clear about the Golden Knights it’s that they have the defensive structure. Funny enough, it’s similar to the Rangers of 2011-12. Playing sound defense and having a goalie more than capable to bail you out was the recipe that worked pretty well for the Blueshirts then, and Vegas now.
Looking forward to 2018-19, the Rangers will have to get back to stressing defense first. The blueline as currently constructed will not get the job done, but there is potential. Getting back to playing a solid overall defense does not necessarily mean that the best defense is to keep the puck in the opponent’s zone. That’s the philosophy that Alain Vigneault would go with from time to time. It’s clear, this team does not have that ability.
Getting back to focusing on the defensive end of the ice is a must. They have the goalie in Henrik Lundqvist to bail them out, they just need to help him out a bit.
A Star Player Is A Difference Maker
This is not something new to the Rangers. They’ve known that they need a start player to help get them over the hump. This is why the team made deals for Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Keith Yandle, Eric Staal, and most recently Kevin Shattenkirk.
Those players, however, were not the difference makers the team thought they would be. They weren’t the type of player Patrik Laine is for the Winnipeg Jets, or David Pastrnak has been for the Boston Bruins. Notice the common theme here; these are young players with Laine at 20 years old and Pastrnak at 21. Laine has four points in four games and Pastrnak boasts 11 in four games.
The goal for the next couple of seasons needs to be to find that young star, not bringing them in on the tail end of their career. The only question here is how? Do they go out and make an attempt at signing John Tavares? Do they do it the long way and go through the draft? Are there any trades out there that can fill this void?
No matter how you look at it, the one piece that has always been missing from this team is that star difference maker. You’re seeing in the playoffs this year just how valuable that is to a team.
Get Back To Winning On The Road
For a while, the Rangers were regarded as one of the best road teams in the NHL. Not in 2017-18, where they posted a 13-23-5 record away from Madison Square Garden.
Winning on the road is not easy and in the playoffs, it is quite evident. The home team has won 17 of the 32 games played this postseason. They have really taken advantage of home ice advantage, building off the energy that their home arenas have given them. This feels like a rarity, but it is safe to say that, the teams that win on the road this postseason, might just win the Cup.
The Rangers have a good following when they hit the road. The support is there. They just have to get back to playing a solid all-around game away from the Garden. When they do, the wins will come for them outside of New York.
The playoffs have taught us that the Rangers are far from being a playoff team as constructed. If they make some moves, maybe they have a chance to squeak in, but they wouldn’t go very far.
Fixing the issues, though, might not be so simple.