Rangers Remain Inconsistent After Hot Start
The New York Rangers opened the season with a 10-2-1 start, during which time they established themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. The team was playing solid defense and seeing great success with both the power play and penalty kill units. To top it all off, enjoying the extra support at both ends of the ice, goalie Henrik Lundqvist was playing at an even higher level than usual.
Since that blazing start to the season, the Rangers are a mediocre 14-12-2, including a 2-3-1 stretch over their last six outings. It’s not a record to be ashamed of, but for a team that dazzled fans with its potential for the first month of the season, it’s quite a fall off in production and quality of play.
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One of the biggest problems during this stretch has been inconsistency and an inability to find that extra gear when the team needs it. The team’s great record in Overtime, a huge strength, has almost turned into a liability. Once the team gets a one goal lead or evens the tally at a tie, the players seem content riding it out. They seem to be saying, worse case we get into OT and we’ll take care of business then and get a point either way. But it’s not the killer instinct that great teams show, and a lack of energy on the ice seems to be a continual issue.
Lundqvist has returned back to Earth with his play, which isn’t a problem in and of itself, minus a few off nights, because he’s still one of the better goalies in the league. The Rangers have been giving up more goals though, because of a lack of quality defensive play which leads to easy scoring opportunities and high shot totals as well as lackadaisical passing and puck handling leading to turnovers in their own zone.
While the penalty kill has remained one of the superior units in the league, the power play has been astonishingly bad. It’s one thing to not score on your own power play, but the Rangers have given up a league high total of shorthanded goals. That kind of sloppy and careless mistake can become crushing for momentum, team morale and fan morale.
Giving up a 4-0 lead to the Capitals on home ice and losing 5-4 in Overtime is not only the perfect encapsulation of the Rangers’ flaws, it also could be a season destroying setback. If the team is to rebound successfully from such a crushing defeat, they need to get back to fundamentals.
That includes finishing hits and keeping bodies on players when they are in front of and around the net. It also includes making crisp and on target passes that allow for odd man rushes and scoring opportunities or if nothing else, movement of the action to the opposing team’s side of the ice.
ProHockey-fans.com NY Rangers Correspondent
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