The New York Rangers have played well considering all the organization has gone through the past few months. Here are some observations on how this season has gone so far.
The New York Rangers have been making little mistakes as of late, which has led to the team’s failure to win games. Nevertheless, the prognosis is good for the Blueshirts.
With Christmas arriving, here are some observations I have thought about as we all wait for the man in the red suit to arrive with hopefully some more good things for the team.
The Rangers are a young team sitting at one game above .500, but considering everything that has occurred over the last 10 months, the Blueshirts will continue to have the chance to make the postseason or go down giving it their all. The team has shown it can be competitive every game night.
Rebuilding or underachieving is a fine line.
The team is full of young players, plenty of experienced veterans and a rookie head coach who is trying to tie everything into a nice Christmas bow. The main problem that was ever apparent this past weekend is the inability to have the team play as a unified unit at the same time.
There are games when the Rangers defense excels, but the offense fails to get the big goal. Henrik Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev stand tall in the crease, but the defense leaves many players alone in front for high scoring quality chances.
A power play that fails to create any offense, never mind actually scoring goals, that has been so unproductive recently that the coaching staff went with five forwards on Sunday instead of the four forwards/one defenseman that had been predominantly used throughout the season.
They have Chris Kreider, who leads the team in goals with 17, on a pace to have the best season of his career. Kevin Hayes, currently on a seven-game point streak, has played with no worry of what is sure to be a public battle whether to trade or resign him come January.
The real surprise of this season has been the play of Filip Chytil. He has come such a long way in a short time. he now has fans sit on the edge of their seats whenever he is on the ice and gets his stick on the puck. The definition of exciting hockey, Chytil has earned the right to play on the first line.
RELATED: 2018 Rangers Christmas Wish List
Consistency is one of the biggest issues with this team. Quinn and his Blueshirts have shown they can play against the big boys in the NHL. They have a never quit attitude proving they are never out of a game, yet their aggressiveness has led to giveaways and mistakes that have cost the team points in the standings.
The team is predictable which is never a good thing in today’s NHL. Quinn and the coaching staff are going to need to find a way to throw a few surprises to keep teams off balance especially on the road.
On the Blueline the most dependable has been Marc Staal along with his partner Neal Pionk. The pairing has been the most consistently used up to this point. The veteran defenseman and the rookie defenseman have been an incredible pair.
Pionk’s achievements this year is a direct result of the confidence and respect he has for his partner next to him. the stay at home defenseman with a long stick reach has been guiding Pionk and though mistakes have been made, the young defenseman has had a great season.
Brady Skjei, on the other hand, has had some tough moments. He has been playing with the weight of Ranger’s supremacy on his shoulders as he is constantly compared to Brian Leetch.
A great comparison, but filled with what seems to be an unachievable goal at times. Skjei has all the skill and talent in the ice but some thorn forces the puck into bad situations. The failure to have a steady partner of the past year has only caused more harm than good. When he skates freely without concern of making mistakes his full potential comes to the forefront.
The coaching staff has to find an equal balance for him to reach the next level, which is definitely attainable.
Plenty of Decisions Ahead
The Rangers will be forced to address the Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes contract situation come the New Year.
Hayes has been playing some of his best hockey which needs to lead to the team offering him a contract extension. The team is getting younger, but trading a player with the hockey skills Hayes posses is a mistake. He should be the first contract the team address before the rumored of trades begins.
As for Mats Zuccarello, the situation is a complete opposite of Hayes. The Garden favorite has been mentioned in several trade rumors over the last 12 months. The organization has given no indication they would want to re-sign him which will lead to a trade by the deadline in February as he is an unrestricted free agent at seasons end.
The play of Lias Andersson has been questioned. He hasn’t performed to the level most of the thought but he hasn’t been able to get the ice time to help him find his game. A tough game Of give and take which has not favored Andersson lately.
Andersson, a first-round pick last season for the team, has to be included in any conversation involving this teams rise back into the playoffs.
With the New Year less then a week away, the Rangers record is 15-14-6, 36 points. The team sits just seven points out of the second wild-card position with plenty of hockey left. The team has a respectable home record of 11-4-4 and have recorded at least one point in the last six consecutive home games. Coach Quinn wanted to have an edge ats MSG and that’s what he has accomplished, but the road record is an entirely critical problem on itself.
At 4-10-2 on the road, the Rangers have suffered their biggest disappointment of the year. Any successful team needs to be near the .500 mark or better on the road. Battling for a wild card spot guarantees one thing, game one and two begin on the road. The coaching staff needs to address this or talk of playoffs is mott.
Plenty to be excited about with this club, but understand there is a lot of hard work ahead for this team to be in the top tier conversation of the NHL.
Just as a comparison, take a look at teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nashville Predators, and the Winnipeg Jets. The Blueshirts can compete with all of these clubs, but can they win a best of seven playoff round? Could they defeat them without home-ice advantage? Do they even match up with the like of Auston Mathews, Patrick Laine or P.K. Subban?
Reality may hurt at times, but this team is fun to watch most of the time. The future is as bright as the star on top of a Christmas tree. Make a wish and always believe.
Merry Christmas, Rangers fans.