The New York Rangers are still winless in 2019 and they must start turning moral victories into actual victories.
The New York Rangers left Las Vegas losers of their last four games, but finally played a full 60 minutes of hockey in Sin City.
Then again, at the end of the day, this is about wins and loses. There are no silver linings in hockey. The Rangers have been battling the toughest competition lately—themselves.
The team has lost its way in all areas of the game. A look in the mirror shows that most of the problems are self-inflicted. The opposition is always going to be good at this level of hockey, but many times, the Rangers could avoid the problems that cause the self-implosion.
For the first time this calendar year, the Blueshirts played a hard-fought game with energy and heart. Their 4-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights showed the effort and passion that had been missing from their repertoire lately. Don’t let the first period shots on goal hijack the narrative. The Knights take shots from anywhere at any time, a good habit the Rangers need to pick up from this loss.
The problems need to get cleaned up and it’s the head coach’s job to diagnose and fix these issues. He began that process Tuesday night.
The team played a five-man unit on defense, which is an area that has suffered the most during this tough stretch of hockey. The centers came all the way back to help the defense get out of their own end faster.
Two of the four goals against New York were plays where the Knights were able to get behind the defense from the blueline on breakaways against Alexandar Georgiev resulting in the puck finding its way into the net. One was a rebound off of a scramble where the defense failed to cover Brandon Pirri and the fourth was an empty net.
The Rangers also saw improvements on the penalty kill as they were able to kill off two of three penalties called against them. Fewer penalties resulted in fewer goals against. Another good improvement from past games (especially the Colorado game).
The Rangers managed two goals on Wednesday for a total of five in the last four games. That needs plenty of improvement and it’s a direct result of the team’s hesitancy to shoot the puck when they have good opportunities to score goals.
The game boils down to wins and losses, and until the Rangers learn how to pick themselves up and play 60 minutes of hockey every game, losing will be a juicy topic of conversation in the upcoming weeks. It’s great to talk about moral victories and bad luck getting in the way of wins. That’s how rebuilding teams talk when there isn’t much else to talk about.
The Rangers played their best game of 2019 in Las Vegas. A smart game, yet with plenty of mistakes and a lack of scoring that is unusual in today’s NHL. The team has to work with what they have in front of them the best they can. Scoring is the hardest thing to circumvent.
A coach can work on defensive coverage, breakouts, and positioning, but it’s more difficult to teach players how to put the puck in the net. It’s a problem that is a difficult fix midseason, but needs to improve if the team wants to win games.
Every team is judged by wins and losses—even rebuilding teams. The team might be learning its way, but the standings are all that count and right now the Rangers are looking up at a lot of teams with the toughest part of their schedule still to come.