In the National Hockey League, two points are everything.
Whether you win a game in regulation time, overtime, or in the shootout, two points is all that matters. Sure, getting one point for going to OT or the shootout is nice, but in the end, it could end up costing you come April.
This will more than likely end up being the case for the New York Rangers. Yes, this team is not expected to make the playoffs anyway, but believe it or not, this team has been in almost every game this season and has left a lot of points on the ice.
For example, let’s look at games the Blueshirts played on December 14 and December 16 against the Arizona Coyotes and the Vegas Golden Knights, respectively. Two games at home against two opponents that they have played well against in the past.
On December 14, the Rangers jumped out to a 3-0 lead. While no lead is safe in today’s NHL, one would figure that against a team like the Coyotes, the Rangers would still come away with a win and two points.
Well, that was clearly wrong to think as the Blueshirts would go on to lose this game 4-3 in overtime thanks to a goal by former Ranger Derek Stepan. Believe it or not, that was Stepan’s first overtime goal since the one he scored in 2015 in Game 7 of the second round against the Washington Capitals.
This game showed how young this Rangers’ team is. When you have a 3-0 lead, you are not supposed to take your foot off the gas, which is exactly what they did and it ended up costing them a point.
Two days later, the Rangers found themselves in a similar situation. The team jumped out to an early 1-0 lead and then found ways to tie it the game at 2-2 and then 3-3.
While it was nice to see the team battle back, it was another game in which they could not get the extra point on home ice. It is understandable when teams have trouble getting points on the road, but at home, it is almost inexcusable.
These two losses go to show you that this team still has a lot of growing up to do. For starters, this team needs to stop giving up leads.
While a 3-0 lead is clearly not insurmountable in today’s game, it is one that most teams can figure out a way to come away with two points. This seems like something this team has trouble doing it.
Several times this season, we have seen the Rangers give up goals both early in the game and then late in the game. When they do this, they put themselves behind the eight ball and frustrate the hell out of their future Hall of Fame netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
Secondly, this team needs to stop getting sloppy once they get the lead. This season, especially in the last minute of games when they are clinging to a lead, they often find themselves chasing the puck all over the ice, getting out of position, and leaving their netminders extremely vulnerable.
Lastly, this team needs to mature in key situations. When they get the lead, they need to push for more and not be satisfied with what they have. More often than not, the Rangers have not done that this season.
If this team wants to make the playoffs, they need to figure out ways to pick-up two points with every opportunity they get. It’s time for them to stop giving up leads and to start learning on to put the pedal to the metal for a full 60 minutes.
If this club figures out a way to do that, it could end up being a very interesting time for this team come April.