Horrible defense and bad start nothing to worry about

January 21, 2013, by
There'll be plenty of celebration this season, despite the slow start

There’ll be plenty of celebration this season, despite the slow start

Here’s an interesting statistic I read after the Pittsburgh loss: The Rangers will play their 48 games in 99 days. Last year they played their final 48 games in 100 days. Basically there is no great concern or big deal to be made of the compressed schedule. There will also be sufficient practice time.

The Rangers managed to win the Atlantic Division last year and came mighty close to winning the President’s Trophy. How they achieved last year’s success was on the back of a stingy, hard working defense providing Lundqvist with the platform to play to his Vezina winning standards. They also evidenced in the second half of last year an ability to adjust to their opponents styles – something that practice time will help achieve.

This season – all two games of it – the defense has been awful. Poor coverage, players guilty of chasing the puck and not remembering their positional duties and poor zone exits, not to mention a poor first pass; the defense has done precious little right thus far. That said, look at the players that make up the Rangers blueline. Marc Staal can still be forgiven for needing a few more games to get back up to his best but is a quality defenseman, particularly in his own zone.

Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh – while not yet their stellar selves –see the vast majority of top line match-ups and while the schedule doesn’t get much lighter you can say with confidence it doesn’t get harder than Malkin/Neal/Crosby or Lucic/Seguin/Krejci. They’ll be fine with time.

Then there is Michael Del Zotto; he’ll never be confused with a Norris trophy winner in his own zone, but we saw his pass for Pyatt’s goal against the Pens. He possesses a level of creativity that will come with time – and practice. The point here is patience and pedigree.

While the Rangers certainly have concerns on the back end – replacing Bickel, whipping Stralman into shape – there is a significant level of talent on the blueline that simply needs to get up to speed. The greater focus needs to be getting the forwards in sync with their defensive responsibilities (and there are several new forwards that need to learn the Rangers system) as well as getting the puck in deep and getting on the opposing defense quickly.

The Rangers for the most part have not played well physically or forechecked effectively. Once they get better in these areas – usually team strengths – the defense will be less exposed and the opposition will have less time to break out and catch the Rangers defense unorganised.

Yes, almost every single blueliner needs to improve and so does every forward in some way or another, but it’s practice time and game time this team needs. Coach Tortorella will know where the improvements need to be made. With two and a half days until the next game there’s opportunity to work on those areas of concern.

The Bruins are next up. We know they’ll be physical and defensively strong once again, and that’s exactly why they are the right opponent for the Rangers. The Bruins set a standard for the Rangers in the first game and the Rangers will know what is needed on Wednesday night. Now, it’s all about making sure they get back to their own high standards of a year ago. Plenty of time yet folks. Time to practice.


  1. VinceR says:

    Good article, Chris.

    While there is some short season alarm concerning a slow start, I think Seth Rothman had some good tweets last night concerning this:

    “I forgot to put this in my story, but lest you forget, the #Rangers lost their first three games – two in overtime – last season.”

    Many replied saying “yeah, yeah, but short season” to which Seth replied:

    “They were 24-6-1 in 31 games after starting 3-3-3 last year.

    My point is, while it’s a short season, this team is capable of doing great things once they get it together. 46 games is still plenty.”

    I feel this way also.

  2. Jeff P says:

    I want to see either Callahan or Kreider with Nash-Richards and Gilroy instead of Bickel (for at lest 10+ minutes).

    • Dave says:

      I don’t think Gilroy is the answer. I’d prefer someone who can skate who isn’t a liability on defense.

  3. Mikeyyy says:

    Rusty, slow, still getting acclimated.

    It’s not what I expected after losing half the season.

    It criminal how poorly they are playing.

  4. Matt says:

    Do you think the lack of a ‘Torts training’ camp is hurting this team? The seemed to out work and out hustle teams last year and I’m afraid while these guys are in shape, but not hockey shape.

    I also think the lack of exhibition games is hurting…not being able to adjust…but I guess all teams are dealing with that.

  5. rickyrants13 says:

    I dont agree with the out work and out hustle teams last year yes at times they did But they had way too many slow starts and way too many times did they get pinned in their own end for far too long. This happens because of the style not because of the lack of tallent.

  6. Mikeyyy says:

    After how many games will it take to realize they won’t get better?

  7. Bloomer says:

    Gabby is coming off surgery so he gets a pass at least for the first few games. But I think with Nash here Gabbys days as a Ranger are numbered. I love his skill, unfortunately he is like a square peg and doesn’t fit into the team concept. With contracts coming up with the younger Ranger…. now would be a good time to move him for some younger talent and maybe a couple of picks.

  8. Ray says:

    I haven’t seen the Rangers play yet and don’t understand the mechanics as well as most here, but I am concerned that the Rangers may have a problem on defense. They have one good defensive pair, two fine left defensemen, and four so-so right defensemen. Pairs get jumbled, Del Zotto plays left sometimes, right other times. Can they really achieve good organization and chemistry? Might they be better off giving Staal and Del Zotto less playing time with set partners?

  9. Jared says:

    The rangers all of last season did not let up six goals. I, however, don’t think the blame falls on the blue liners. I think it is a combination of poor defense from the forward combined with turnovers in the neutral zone. We are playing too much time on defense.

    If you look at the forward lines we have this year, there is not one line that is the same from last year. Yes, there are familiar faces but if you look at who is playing with who and where people are play there is bound to be some growing pains (Gabby on the Left, and it looks like torts is trying Bickel at forward). Look at Richards with some bad turnovers on blind passes. It is safe to say that the Rangers need to build some chemistry.

    All this being said, I am not worried (yet). With the progress that is to be made by all the new faces on forward the defense will come. The best defense is a good offense. The Rangers will figure it all out. The only thing that scares me a little is that we dont have 82 games to figure this out we only have 48.