The New York Rangers’ “OK” four-game road trip can be contributed to a lack of scoring from everyone not named Panarin or Zibanejad.
The four-game road trip concluding Saturday in Anaheim can be considered a solid performance for the New York Rangers, one that would have been more successful if there was more scoring coming from players other than Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanenjad.
A 2-1-1 west coast road trip last week disclosed two valuable pieces of information. The first is this team can compete for postseason play this season. The second and more concerning raises the goal-scoring concern previously mentioned.
Over the four games, the team scored a combined 15 goals. Panarin (6G) and Zibanejad (5G) were responsible for 73% of the offense on the road trip. Chris Kreider (1G, 3A), Jacob Trouba (1G, 1A) and Jesper Fast (2G, 1A) rounded out the remaining goal scorers.
The lack of offense from the team as a whole is what cost the club at least a 3-1 trip. The team took five of a possible eight points, but every point is crucial as the calendar changes from 2019 to 2020.
This is not a matter of line combinations and chemistry, but rather, individual effort. David Quinn kept the line combinations steady for the most part, with the exception of some in-game changes.
Where did all the offense go?
Reviewing the forwards over the four-game trip, there were some obvious names missing from the scoresheet.
Pavel Buchnevich – 0 points
Filip Chytil – 1 assist
Kaapo Kakko – 2 assists
Brett Howden – 0 points
Ryan Strome – 4 assists
Brendan Lemieux – 0 points (three games)
Brendan Smith – 0 points
Gregg McKegg – 0 points
Micheal Haley – 0 points (two games)
It’s hard to pinpoint one particular reason the forwards have struggled so much. There are some things that need to change to get the scoring a little more balanced.
Shooting the puck more often would be a step in the right direction. Kaapo Kakko has been the culprit too many times. He’ll pass the puck when a prime scoring situation presents itself. He needs to drive to the net and use that great wrist shot he possesses. He also needs to get back to the game he played before he was hit with the flu.
The club needs to play as a five-man unit in the offensive zone. There is one problem with having a player score 19 goals this season: too often, the team looks for Panarin to finish the play.
The team needs to gain confidence in other players on the ice. Overpassing makes it easier for the defense to clamp down on just one player. There are four other players on the ice in Rangers sweaters, and they all need to find a way to contribute to scoring goals and making plays.
The fourth line needs to do more. In today’s NHL, four lines win games. Quinn can no longer consider the fourth line as a break-in-the-action for the other nine forwards. it might be time to call up Vinni Lettieri, Boo Nieves (again) and, hopefully, in the near future, the recently returned Vitali Kravtsov.
The club has plenty of options in Hartford or via a trade to come up with a fourth-line combination that can produce more than just minutes on the ice.
What to do next?
John Davidson and Jeff Gorton have plenty of questions to address. Their issues for the future are intertwined with the issues of the present.
A serious restructure needs to be completed, starting with Chris Kreider. With two weeks left in December and no new-contract discussions on the horizon, the team needs to move him for a ready-now NHL player who can jump in and add a scoring punch.
While Georgiev has been one of the best players this season, more than just a back-up to Lundqvist, the Russian goaltender may not be able to stay a Ranger. With the arrival of Igor Shesterkin and a complicated expansion draft scheduled at the end of next season, a trade might be inevitable.
Trading Georgiev now could be the best option for improvement this season.
David Quinn has spoken of the postseason potential for his team. If this team legitimate possesses a shot in the organization’s eyes, the Rangers need to make moves now to balance out the scoresheet while the team still has the top assets to move.