The New York Rangers’ deficiencies were greatly exposed in their blowout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
The New York Rangers can be an exciting team to watch. They can also be a dreadful team to watch when they make the mistakes that lead to scoring chances, goals against and, eventually, loses.
Rangers head coach David Quinn has been forced to deal with the latter much too often this season. This team continues to struggle to fully embrace his defensive system consistently, as he explained to Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post.
These defensive flaws were visible during the 4-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night. The Rangers came out of the gate flat and gave up two quick goals in the first 3:50 of the game.
The run-and-gun style of hockey is fun to watch, but must be brutal to coach. Quinn refers to these contests as “Pond Hockey,” a game that features the whole team obsessing over offense and while lacking the discipline needed to win hockey games.
Monday night’s game was another example of the team simply showing impatience on the ice. They left Henrik Lundqvist in a winless possibility, as he has no chance on three of the four goals that found the back of his net.
There are a few reasons this has been happening so frequently early in the year.
The Rangers have been putting out kids every game. It is, without a doubt, a positive thing to do as the club looks to improve as a 23 man unit; but it does lead to growing pains that right now have not seemed to improve much since opening night.
Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren have shown plenty of inconsistencies. They are just a quarter of their season into their NHL career, but with Marc Staal out with an ankle injury, Quinn Has been unable to sit a player following a poor performance, something he’s grown accustomed of during his time on Broadway.
That will change once Staal returns to the lineup.
Terrible Penalty Kill
Penalty killing has been a focal point and is another contributor to the team’s erratic play.
The penalty kill (aside from the game against the New Jersey Devils last Saturday) has been simply horrific. The team is ranked 25th, 72.5%, in the league. Special teams can create and disrupt momentum when a club is at the top of its game.
In the Rangers 4-0 win over New Jersey Saturday, the club finished 8-8 on the PK while also scoring two short-handed goals. Against the VGK, the PK was 0-2.
Wins and losses are drawn from such a fine line in this league. Teams must capitalize on every advantage they can seize. Seven spots from the bottom of the league is a hard way to get better.
How to fix this problem?
Quinn has to show more patience with his line combinations. He has been quick to change combinations mid-game and has failed to find a strong fourth line. He has to give players some time to gel and a unit.
The Rangers have played over 20 games and rarely has the coach kept the same lines combos for more than two consecutive games. Some of this is not all on him. Injuries and sickness tend to throw a kink into the game plan.
He has to trust his players as much as he wants his players to trust his system.
The power-play needs to stop the fancy cross circle passes. They have forgotten the simplicity of the power-play. Get a man screening the goalie, take shots that are on goal and pick up the garbage (rebounds).
The tic-tac-toe passing looks great on MSG Networks’ highlights, but isn’t successful most times.
Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox have been producing on the power- play, but Quinn keeps removing them from the top unit. They have set up and scored big goals this season, yet Quinn continues to switch them off the top unit.
He needs to keep them on the No. 1 power-play unit regardless if goals are scored or not. They give the club the best opportunity to score goals with the man advantage.
Entering the month of December, the club was only three points behind the second wild-card position. The playoffs are in sight, but the team needs to stay focused on the game ahead of them, not “what happens” five months down the road.
The “rebuilding” tag is getting old now. The basics of hockey remain the same as when those guys played Pee-Wee Hockey.
Keep the puck out of your net and put the puck in their net.
Should the Rangers truly believe they can improve and make a playoff run, they first have to trust in the coach and each other on the ice.
There are plenty of games to learn from and maybe the time to discuss playoffs has finally arrived.
The club is headed in the right direction, which is why it’s so important to continue to make strides going forward and stop taking too many steps backward.