Ever since the New York Rangers beat the New York Islanders on November 21 to move into a tie for first place in the Metropolitan Division, things have been inconsistent.
Prior to the last week or so, the team was playing well defensively, was doing a good job of holding onto leads, and was stringing together wins. It was these things that had the Blueshirts in a great spot.
Fast forward to now and things have changed in a big way. The club has lost five of their last six games, including back-to-back losses on November 23 (Philadelphia Flyers) and 24 (Washington Capitals) three straight losses on November 29 (Ottawa Senators), December 1 (Montreal Canadiens), and December 2 (Winnipeg Jets).
The team does not play again until Saturday, December 8, which means that they have several days to get their acts together and correct a few things in their game. The first thing they should focus on is defense.
If this team did not have Henrik Lundqvist playing behind them, they would be in a world of hurt. Night after night, this team gives up a ton of shots, does not do a good enough job of closing gaps or clearing out the front of the crease, and they are also careless with the puck in their own zone.
The shots that they are allowing on a nightly basis is becoming a real big problem for this hockey team. As of this writing, they allow an average of close to 34 shots on a goal a game. That is way too much on their netminders. While Lundqvist will tell you that he loves the action and facing all this rubber, I am willing to bet you that at 36 years of age, he would like to see less amount of shots.
It is also clear that guys like Kevin Shattenkirk and Brady Skjei are struggling in a big way. These guys were supposed to be the team’s best defensemen and instead, have been far from it.
At different points this season, team head coach David Quinn has scratched both of them. They both have made poor decisions with the puck and at times, have not looked too focused out on the ice.
A perfect example of this occurred on December 1 in the team’s 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. With 10 seconds left to play in the first period, Skjei stopped playing to argue with one of the officials and doing this allowed Canadiens’ forward Tomas Tatar to get the puck to a wide-open Shea Weber in front of the net to give the Canadiens a 2-0 lead.
Speaking of not playing smart, the team has now started to give up leads. They gave up a few leads in their 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals back on November 24 and on December 2, they gave up a 3-0 lead to the Jets and ended up losing the tilt, 4-3, in a shootout.
In the division and the conference that the Rangers play in, these things cannot continue to happen. While they are not expected to make the postseason, the team believes that they can so they should want to always grab two points when they can and not let any of them slip away.
Lastly, the team just isn’t playing well in general. They’ve been sloppy in both zone, they make a lot of careless plays, take untimely penalties and when it seems they have a game in hand, they end up giving it right to their opponent.
Despite their recent struggles, the team somehow remains in the thick of the things in both their division and the Eastern Conference. They are currently tied for both the second Wild Card spot and the third spot in the division.
If this team wants to remain competitive and in the playoff hunt, they will need to shape up and start playing the game the right way again.
*Photo: Associated Press