3 major defensive changes the Rangers need to make before the playoffs 

New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers in the third period at Wells Fargo Center
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers, despite holding the number one spot in the NHL, have had some worrisome defensive performances in their last few games. The worst of these performances came during the Blueshirts’ most recent loss to the Islanders, where they entered the second period already down by three goals to none.

This is a historic season for New York, and if the defense can’t get back on track in the final three games of the regular season, another early exit from the playoffs could happen.

1. The Trouba-Miller pairing needs to be split up immediately 

In a shocking turn of events, the Rangers’ second defensive pairing consisting of Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller has imploded and become an absolute liability when on the ice. When Trouba was injured recently, Miller was able to blossom with Braden Schneider by his side. But with the captain returning and the regular pairing back together, neither player has been able to gain any sort of momentum.

If the Trouba-Miller pairing remains intact for the playoffs, opposing teams will undoubtedly capitalize on this weak spot in the roster. Penalties, sloppy turnovers, and goals against are frequent when both Trouba and Miller are on the ice together, so it would be in the Rangers’ best interest to break it up now and find a better combination in the final three games of the year.

2. Gustafsson out, Jones in 

Despite the Trouba-Miller pairing being the worst current combination, the individual worst-performing defender on the roster right now has been Erik Gustafsson. The veteran was signed by New York this past offseason on a cheap, low-risk deal, and it actually seemed like a smart move by Chris Drury early on in the season. But whatever Gustafsson was doing took a quick 180-degree turn, as his defensive play in the back half of the year has been nothing short of abysmal. 

While Gustafsson has been skating around creating a defensive liability recently, Zac Jones has been watching it all fall apart from the press box. While Trouba was injured, Jones stepped up and proved that he could perform in the NHL on a regular basis. He provided consistent defensive play, and although it wasn’t perfect, it was much better than what Gustafsson had been showing. At a certain point, Peter Laviolette must realize that the right decision would be to slot Jones in and let the kid show his worth in the playoffs.

3. The Rangers need to play a full 60 minutes of defense

In a more general sense, the entire defensive corps needs to perform better as a whole throughout the entirety of every game. Too many times have the Rangers fallen down by multiple goals early on, leaving the offense a tough task to mount a comeback. Luckily, the Rangers have been able to make these comebacks happen multiple times throughout the season, but that type of play will not translate to playoff success. 

Looking back at the Blueshirts’ most recent game on Long Island, the Rangers allowed three goals in the first period alone. It was a defensive nightmare, as the Islanders walked all over the defense. There was a quick turnaround in periods two and three where the Rangers dominated for the latter 40 minutes, but their initial 20 of poor play cost them the win. If the Rangers want to make it far in the playoffs, this can not continue. A full 60 minutes of defensive perfection is required- nothing less. 

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