The New York Rangers need to take a look in the mirror this morning and decide if they are happy with who is looking back at them following another terrible loss on Tuesday night.
The Rangers have been on the wrong side of games this season not due to a lack of hustle or heart but because they have been beaten by teams with more experience and timely talent. Prior to Tuesday night’s game, each of the Rangers’ last 11 games, and 11 of the team’s 13 games this season, have been decided by two or fewer goals.
Tuesday night’s loss had nothing to do with being defeated by a better team and everything to do with a team’s top players’ failure to score goals when they are needed most, and a team that seems to not be hearing its head coach.
Injuries Are Not To Blame
The club is battling the injury bug in a big way currently. Philip Chytil, Jack Johnson, Artemi Panarin, K’Andre Miller were all out of the lineup last night. Defenseman Jacob Trouba left the game last night with an upper-body injury and did not return.
Injuries are something every club endures throughout a season. It can sometimes be a reflection of a final score or lack of production on the ice. The issue here for the Blueshirts has nothing to do with injuries, that is something that can be overcome or at the very least managed until the troops return.
The effort is the main culprit.
Frustration Sets In
The top player in this club has not been doing their job lately and the frustration is becoming apparent. Players are squeezing the sticks a little tighter, taking poor penalties, seem a step behind the play because they are thinking more than playing. All are the definition of a struggling NHL hockey player.
Great players can skate their way out of the slump, find a good aspect in their game, and build on it. Sometimes the player will find himself in quicksand. One bad thing happens, then another, then another, and then a game is lost.
Mika Zibanejad is the team’s most important player. He is the number one center, the most relied upon by the coaching staff, and a mentor to the younger guys on the team.
Yet, Zibanejad can not seem to get out of his own way. He is beginning to play undisciplined hockey, he is second-guessing everything that goes on during the game and as now appear he has become so down on himself he is not winning draws or taking shots on goal.
Reviewing Tuesday night’s game stats and the frustrations of Zibanejad shows how bad things are going for him.
Mika had 25 shifts and 19:50 minutes of time on ice yet he only managed to get four shots on goal. His second-period elbow penalty, which was out of anger rather than just a bad penalty, resulted in a Devils power-play goal and a 1-0 deficit at the time.
You can’t score goals if you don’t shoot the puck.
Zibanejad is not the only reason for the team’s struggles, he is just the most noticeable. Chris Kreider has just four goals, Pavel Buchnevich, 4G, 9 PTS, Ryan Strome, 4G, 6 PTS, are all responsible for the slow start to the season.
The Head Coach Needs To Do More
Head coach David Quinn is feeling the pressure of the stalled season and he should be since he is the captain of a boat taking on water in Rangerstown.
The defense has played much better over the last eight games. The one-goal games are a reflection of a strong defensive presence that has actually covered up for the sub-par goaltending early on in the season. Quinn can take the credit for the defense, but this improvement seems to be the result of assistant coach Jacques Martin’s hard work and experience.
Quinn cannot teach a player how to put the puck in the net, that is obvious. A good head coach puts players into positions where they can be the most successful. He places players in line combinations where the skill between the three linemates can defend on one side of the ice and explode with a fleury of scoring chances on the other side of the ice.
It is also his responsibility to move players around to different lines to help them find success on the ice.
It is responsible to inquire why players such as Zibanejad and Kreider have held their spots while players like Kaapo Kakko, Buchnevich, Brett Howden have been shuffled up and down the lineup to try to get their game back on track.
Zibanejad could use a game on the third line not as a punishment, but as a way to rejuvenate his game again. The status quo of Mike centering the top line is stale right now. Quinn needs to move him and Kreider at least for a game and see how things progress.
To continue to do the same repetitive things over and over with the same result will not lead to a better outcome. It leads to anarchy, it results in many losses and eventually a change in leadership behind the bench.
Follow Frank Curto on Twitter @RangerProud