The New York Rangers defense has played poorly of the last few seasons, but the new coaching staff may have a plan to improve its system.
The New York Rangers have had plenty of issues on the blueline over the past few seasons.
Horrible defense coverage in front of their net with missed assignments, bad clearing passes out of their end and bad decisions left the team looking unprepared and down goals early in games.
This season, a new coaching staff has brought a different but not necessarily new concept to the team.
To eliminate the appearance of running around the ice, a mass hysteria of who is covering who, the Rangers are bringing back a concept of using a five-man defense unit with an emphasis on the centers, who will now have a lot more responsibility in the defensive zone.
As Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk explained in a simple way, under Alain Vigneault the team tried to outnumber the opposition to get the puck. This leads to the opposing players being left wide open, especially in front of their own net.
The explanation demonstrates why there were so many bang-bang goals scored with no Rangers defensemen in front of the Rangers net.
“Now it’s more of a five-man unit where we’re closer together and have more support. That should benefit us getting out and through the neutral zone with a quicker, better-paced transition as opposed to last year where we were looking for a lot of long passes, high flips.”
Shattenkirk explained to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
The style of hockey worked well for the team when Vigneault was at the helm at the beginning of his Rangers tenure, but as the years went on the players were not able to keep up the outnumbering style of play and for whatever reason, the team didn’t adjust.
The end result was playing from behind more often than not.
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The Rangers have been practicing throughout camp with this new defensive scheme. Practice is the key word here as the Blueshirts have yet to try this scheme on a full team by anyone they have faced this preseason.
Opening night against Nashville on Thursday will be the first time they get to implement the new style of play and rest assured mistakes will be made.
“The centers have a lot of responsibility on the switches,” said Shattenkirk, who said the system is similar to the one he played successfully for years in St. Louis. “Like anything, we’re going to need a lot of repetition to get this down so that it becomes second nature and we can play on instinct,” Shattenkirk told Brooks.
The team will continue to improve in all areas of the ice, but the team’s defense needs to be at its best early on in the season as many teams will take chances knowing they are young, rebuilding and implementing new game plans.
The new defensive system will need the team to try and run a 1-1-3 scheme as the opposition attacks the Rangers end of the ice. with the hope that they will be able to have the attacking team to go the Rangers strong side of the ice, where they will have their centers aligned to help the defensive quickly exit their end.
This new plan will need a lot of work to execute as it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the centers to get back deep into their own end. Quick, smart passes out of their end of the ice should lead to more odd-man rushes and relieve some of the constant relentless pressure the team faced last season.
A new coaching staff with a new strategy hopefully will lead to a hell of a lot fewer goals scored against the team. Change can be good for a team and the New York Rangers are experiencing a ton of it early on in the year.