The New York Rangers started off the 2023-24 season as close to perfect as possible. Peter Laviolette implemented a new system that elevated the Blueshirts’ skills to new levels, and it was paying off with consistent wins on a nightly basis.
Although the Rangers still sit close to the top of the league standings, the last few weeks of play have not been ideal. With losses becoming more frequent and players beginning to cool down from hot starts, fans are beginning to question whether or not the Blueshirts remain legitimate contenders.
1. Losses to non-playoff teams have become a frequent occurrence
Across their last 10 games, the Rangers have a record of just 6-3-1. Their most recent loss came last night against the Montreal Canadiens, a team that is sitting far out of a playoff spot. The Blueshirts looked terrible throughout the contest, falling down 3-0 early on. They were able to force a comeback late in the game, but Montreal was able to seal the deal in the shootout.
This loss against Montreal is not the first time the Rangers have played terribly against non-playoff teams. It’s become a trend as of late, with the Blueshirts playing as inconsistently as ever. This is the same team that began the year by dominating the top five teams, but something has clearly changed in recent weeks.
2. The Rangers’ defense and goaltending have taken a major step back
Part of the reason why the Blueshirts started the year off so hot was their incredible defense and goaltending. Laviolette joined the organization and swiftly turned a defensively mediocre team into one of the best, but all of his changes seem to have unraveled.
Igor Shesterkin remains elite between the pipes, but Jonathan Quick has taken a major step back. He started the season at an incredible rate, but his last few starts have shown he has slowed down. The defense has also regressed, with teams making scoring look easy. K’Andre Miller has been the biggest standout with his inconsistent play, with Braden Schneider also looking mediocre at best.
3. Injuries are holding the Rangers back
It’s difficult to make an exact analysis of the Rangers’ skills due to the build-up of injuries throughout the year. There’s probably only been a handful of games where the team was entirely healthy, with a majority of the season consisting of at least one player sitting out. This issue began with Ryan Lindgren getting hurt early on and has since evolved with key injuries such as Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil on the LTIR.
Whatever is going on right now with the Rangers, it’s important to factor in the amount of injuries that have impacted their success. There are currently two AHL regulars in the lineup, Brennan Othmann and Jonny Brodzinski, so there shouldn’t be much panicking unless this problem continues when Chytil and Kakko return.
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Are the Rangers frauds?
There is still plenty of time for Laviolette and the Rangers to work out whatever issues are going on within the organization. Once the team is back at full strength, the Blueshirts should be able to reinsert themselves as a top contender. Making assumptions about the Rangers’ potential before seeing the roster healthy would be a bit presumptuous.
Over the last few weeks, it’s become clear that the Rangers are not the best team in the NHL. Teams such as Boston, Vancouver, or Winnipeg might hold that honor. But they still possess elite skill, and with a few adjustments, recovery, and possible trades down the line, there’s no doubt that the Blueshirts can still make a hopeful run for the Cup.