Once the hottest team in the NHL, the New York Rangers have looked like mere mortals on the ice as they look for why the team has struggled over the last 16 games
The first-place New York Rangers have not played like a team leading the Metropolitan Division for most of this season. An 8-7-1 record over the last 16 games has deflated the once unbeatable Blueshirts.
Inconsistency on the ice has resulted in pucks in the back of the Rangers net.
The Rangers’ Defensive Failures
The flaws in the defense are not by one or two defensemen but as a whole team. Adam Fox has not been the same player since his lower-body injury that saw him land on the long-term injured list. Since his return to the team on Nov. 29th against the Detroit Red Wings, Fox has played in 19 games with one goal and 14 points.
K’Andre Miller could be one of the season’s most inconsistent players for the Rangers. He has been guilty of turnovers on his end of the ice, incorrect decisions to pinch in the offensive zone when he should have come out earlier, and has recently been out of position in the team’s defensive zone, resulting in high-quality shots and goals.
Braden Schneider has had his struggles paired with Eric Gustafsson as well.
Rangers captain Jacob Trouba has seen the laps that have haunted the team over the last three weeks,
“It’s been more than one or two games for sure,” said captain Jacob Trouba. “I think [lack of detail] has drifted into our game.”Brooks
Igor Shesterkin and Johnathan Quick have been standing on their heads to keep the club in games. The defensive misplays have seen the opposition score goals quickly and often, as was the case in the team’s 6-3 loss to Vancouver on Monday night, which saw the Canucks score two goals a little over a minute apart in the loss.
In the case of Shesterkin, he has been making big saves, but he needs to be more consistent to bail his teammates out when he needs to.
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The Forwards Have No Help
Let’s be honest now: the Panarin-Trocheck-Lafreniere line is a big reason the team was so successful early on, and that is why this team is always in a hockey game regardless of the score.
The right-wing position has been a question mark all season, with Blake Wheeler seeing most of the time on the top line with Kreider and Zibanejad.
Kaapo Kakko played with that line until he suffered a lower-body injury. Kakko should be cleared to participate in full practices this week, but is he the answer to the right-wing defense the team has battled with all season?
Peter Laviolette has been changing things up when he can to keep the team battle at a high level. He has a knack for recognizing when a player is playing at a high level and getting him more ice time in games.
An example of this is Artemi Panarin, who, several times this season, has double-shifted on the Zibanejaed line with Kreider.
What’s Next For the Rangers?
Laviolette must address the Blueline flaws that were so confident early in the year.
It may be time to change up the pairings on defense as Laviolette does with the forward line combinations.
The head coach tinkered with different pairings during training camp, and perhaps the staff would put Lindgren with Miller and Fox with Trouba for a few games. Schneider and Gustaffson would not be the best pair to change because it would mean one of the top four defensemen would see substantially less ice time.
Trials and tribulations are something all teams go through in an eight-game season. The winning teams find ways to overcome these issues and continue to find ways to move up in the standings.
Follow Frank on X at @RangerPRoud