David Quinn, Filip Chytil
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images, AP

A 1-3 Western Canadian trip has the New York Rangers questioning themselves with the trade deadline some seven weeks away.

Frank Curto

The New York Rangers left Vancouver with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss. The winning goal scored with under two minutes left in the contest gave the Rangers a 1-3 record on their four-game Western Canadian road trip.

The dissatisfying trip out west verified this club is not a playoff-contending team.

David Quinn and his coaching staff now have to figure out how to get things back on track. A combination of new problems, along with the same sloppy defense, has the Rangers looking further up from the near bottom of the Metropolitan Division.

Alexandar Georgiev played in three of the four games on the trip. He was a surprise starter when Henrik Lundqvist fell ill and couldn’t practice or play on Saturday night, though he was able to dress as the backup. His record was 1-2, the sole won coming by way of overtime in Toronto, and was pulled after giving up six goals in Edmonton on New Year’s Eve in a 7-5 loss. He also dropped Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to the Canucks.

The team’s defense is the biggest concern for the club

The defensive issues begin with Brady Skjei, who can’t seem to avoid problems when he is on the ice.

He was unable to clear the front of his goal as the winning goal was scored on Saturday. He has been caught running around too often on the ice and gets caught out of position in his end, which results in too many scoring opportunities for the opposition.

Skjei found himself on the bench for most of the third period in Thursday’s loss at Calgary. More poor play and a bad penalty was the reason why.

Quinn has been unable to sit a struggling defenseman since Libor Hajek was injured some five weeks ago. Hajek did accompany the team on the trip and practiced in a white jersey on Saturday, but his status is still unknown.

Skjei can use a little rest and some time to readjust his game. He is pressing on both ends of the ice, scoring just five goals this season in 40 games.

They continue to give up too many high-quality chances and give the puck away far too often. Turnovers are going to be their biggest demise this season and a reason they are falling in the standings now.

Quinn has preached this throughout the season, but to deaf ears most times.

This is a team that enjoys the perfect pass. That mentality haunts the coaching staff every shift in every game. The players need to learn how to chip the puck out of the boards and regroup.

The team has to get away from passing the puck in the middle of the ice.

The defense is the responsibility of all five of the players on the ice. The run and gun offense has to lead to more scoring, but at the expense of defending their end of the ice.

The Rangers don’t have the tools to win the undisciplined back and forth scoring contest. Playing the game with structure and patience is essential for this club.

For a group with so many young players, talented for sure, patience is something that many need to find.

Kaapo Kakko, RoboKaapo T-Shirt

Road trip showed some promise

Some good things came out of the road trip. Defenseman Adam Fox was the best player northwest.

The defenseman never seems to get rattled or thrown off his game. He has been partnered with Ryan Lindgren, as the two rookies have been holding their own against the like of Auston Mathews and Connor McDavid.

Fox had back to back multi-point games (two assists against Edmonton, three assists against Calgary) and seems to gain more steam the more ice time he gets.

The team scored 14 goals in the four games, but gave up 15 against. The team’s best player, Artemi Panarin, had seven points on the trip (one goal, six assists), but failed to register a point in the last two games of the trip.

Pavel Buchnevich scored his first goal in 16 games in Vancouver, which may get him going after a slow start to the season.

A bad road trip to start the New Year, along with the saga of unrestricted free agents and restricted free agents along with a disgruntled player within the organization, will now be the focus for the team.

The trade rumors will certainly pick up intensity now that the team will look like sellers at the trade deadline. The same names will be mentioned going to several different clubs, such as Pittsburgh, Colorado, Boston and Toronto, to name a few.

Chris Kreider is the top UFA, and with no word regarding an extension, he should be moved before February’s deadline. The RFA status of Ryan Strome and Alexandar Georgiev could net some positive assets. Lias Andersson, who walked away from Hartford last week, might get the club a draft pick or two in the upcoming draft.

As exciting as it’s been watching this team, at the end of the day, the NHL remains a business about winning. This team is not a playoff club and it still missing a few pieces to the puzzle.

A road trip against the better teams in the NHL told a story many didn’t want to read, one that showcased some heart and desire, but in the end, proved the New York Rangers’ deficiencies on the ice and behind the bench that prove the trade deadline is far more important than the playoffs.

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