Rangers show signs of growing pains in 4-1 loss to Coyotes

Photo: Christian Peterson/Getty Images

Photo: Christian Peterson/Getty Images

The Rangers opened the season last night against the Coyotes, and immediately showed that they are playing a much different style of hockey. The defensemen were involved in the offense, the powerplay was moving the puck and generating shots, and those shots were actually getting through. It wasn’t all peachy, as defensive zone coverage was very sloppy. The Rangers will be going through a lot of growing pains as they switch from the Torts/Sully low zone collapse to the AV style (looked to be an overload, but that’s something Suit will discuss). Those pains led directly to the first goal by the Yotes.

A few things of note: Brad Richards looked pretty good on the wing. He made nice, crisp passes, and seemed to be seeing the ice very well. Marc Staal played phenomenally as well. Derek Stepan looked a bit rusty. The penalty kill looked like they struggled a bit as well. They also took a boatload of penalties.

Let’s get to the goals:

Phoenix 1, Rangers 0

Growing pains.

Growing pains.

There were two fails on this goal. First Brad Richards found himself a little too low in the zone, and failed to pick up Oliver Ekman-Larsson (picture #1 above). OEL was able to pressure Derek Stepan, who turned the puck right over to Rob Klinkhammer. This is where the growing pains will be. Richards is that low based on John Tortorella’s low zone collapse system, whereas Alain Vigneault will want his forwards a little higher and playing an overload. It takes time to learn the new system.

Lots of swivel-head fail here.

Lots of swivel-head fail here.

Then Stepan followed the puck instead of picking up the man (picture #2 above) circling back to the slot (Kyle Chipchura). Once Klinkhammer found the open passing lane, it was an easy goal. You can make the argument that John Moore –who turned quickly and saw Chipchura coming– could have made a move to him, but neither he nor Michael Del Zotto were out of position. The argument can also be made that Rick Nash should have gotten to him, but Chipchura isn’t Nash’s man in that scenario. When it’s a 1-on-3 down low and the pass gets through, it’s almost always a goal.

Rangers 1, Coyotes 1

This is what Rick Nash does. He draws attention.

This is what Rick Nash does. He draws attention.

After two pretty solid powerplays that didn’t come to fruition, the Rangers finally broke through with the man advantage. This one was just a stroke of beauty. It began with Richards collecting the puck behind the net and making the smart, short pass to Stepan on the wing at the red line. Stepan got the puck to Nash, who drew a pair of defenders to him (OEL, Zbynek Michalek) on a 3-on-2 rush. That left Staal, who was at the Coyotes’ blue line to start the rush, all alone on the weak side. Nash doesn’t miss that pass. Staal just had to put it over Mike Smith.

Coyotes 2, Rangers 1

That's just unlucky for Moore, who was all over Vrbata.

That’s just unlucky for Moore, who was all over Vrbata.

This goal begins with the play of Mike Smith. He’s one of the best at handling the puck, and his ability prevented the Rangers from getting a full change after clearing the zone. He was able to get the puck back to the Rangers blue line, and this left Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh completely gassed. John Moore, who came on in a forward position after the change, failed to clear the zone. Derek Morris got the puck down to Martin Hanzal, and the puck eventually wound up on Radim Vrbata’s stick in the slot. Moore was on Vrbata, and both Girardi and McDonagh were occupied with the mess in front of the net. Hank made the first save, but the rebound went right through Moore’s skates and back to Vrbata’s forehand for the empty netter.

Phoenix 3, Rangers 1

This one was a bit weird. After Girardi took a pretty penalty, Antoine Vermette won the face off clean back to Keith Yandle. Yandle got the puck to Vrbata at the point who just let it go. Hank reacted very late, so it makes me wonder if he couldn’t see it initially. The puck didn’t go off of Hanzal or Staal in front, so maybe Anton Stralman accidentally screened Hank on the shot. No picture on this one because there was nothing to really show.

Phoenix 4, Rangers 1

Nash just leaves Vrbata to crash the net.

Nash just leaves Vrbata to crash the net.

After MDZ managed to chip the puck passed Vrbata below the goal line, Nash immediately lost the puck back to Vrbata, who put the puck in front of the net. With the puck going to the middle, Nash actually left Vrbata alone and started skating up ice. Hanzal was unable to get a shot off in front, but the puck went right to the now-wide-open Vrbata, who roofed it to complete the hat trick.

Let’s remember that this was game 1 of 82. There are still 81 more of these things to go, and the Rangers won’t win every single game. As they play more, they will make less coverage mistakes. They also won’t run into a goalie that makes a bunch of stellar saves on a nightly basis. They will also have two of their top forwards back by months end (hopefully).

40 Responses to “Rangers show signs of growing pains in 4-1 loss to Coyotes”

  1. AD says:

    I thought Mats Zuccarella played great hockey last evening. His creativity and passing is at an elite level — I would not be surprised to see him move to 1st line LW and help jump-start an ineffective Nash.

  2. Mikeyyy says:

    Not bad for agame 1 under a new coach with a new system. Not like Roy’s first game, but then again, it’s only game 1

    My goal for the team, 10-10 for the first 20. No need to panic yet.

  3. Steff says:

    This is why I love you guys, to show the thought and process behind your thinking, but als behind the hockey.

    Thanks!

    ps. No bullits with general remarks about certain things/players, which I liked in the preseason?

    • Dave says:

      We breakdown how each goal happened, noting defensive zone breakdowns, missed coverages, etc.

      We can definitely discuss each player/things you noticed in the comments section.

      • Steff says:

        I’d like to! But not in a position right now where I have access to the games. And I certainly don’t think it is fair to discuss things based on a 3-4 minute highlight reel from the NHL…

        • Dave says:

          I’m usually writing the breakdowns, so I’ll include some major points (like I did above).

          Other than those, thought the defense as a whole played well, considering it was a new system.

  4. Centerman21 says:

    I thought Richards was one of the better NYR skaters. He made some nice plays with the puck.

    • Dave says:

      Same here. Aside from his gaffe on the first goal (the entire team had at least one gaffe), he played well.

      • Puck Luck (@Centerman21) says:

        That 1st goal was just as much on Stepan as Richards. I’m a big fan of Stepan but he coughed up the puck to allow that play to happen. Richie needs to pick anyone up crashing the net but the Rangers turned the puck over while attempting to exit the zone.

    • WilliamW says:

      Agreed, he looked comfortable on the wing and had a very nice deflection right in front that forced Smith to make a nice save. It looks like he was credited with 4 SOGs

  5. Tommy T says:

    Where to begin….. Its Game 1 of 82, we look terrible in our own end. This is temporary, or so we all hope. The biggest thing i noted was they chased the puck all over the ice. I was always told go to where the puck is going not to where it is.

    This team will click nicely in a few games, lets hope we dont dig the hole too deep before we get the hang of it.

    The offensive looked decent, Zuccs speed has greatly improved, and our “2nd”line looks very solid and comfortable.

    Welcome back Marc Staal – ive always had a small hatred for you, it is gone. Thank you

  6. Centerman21 says:

    I really wish AV would use a zone of sorts when the puck is at or below the goal line. Pack it in and defend the slot. You can’t score from behind the net as long as a pass doesn’t make it out in front like the 1st goal against. He can play his man coverage all over the zone except for down low. Penalties have killed this team early on in AV’s tenure. The Diamond PK set the Rangers needs work. Have to be able to clear.

    • Dave says:

      Problem is that it leaves the point men open. It’s not just puck location, it’s location of the opposition.

      Always cover the slot, but the generally purpose of the overload in the d zone is to outnumber the puck carrier and create a turnover.

      Suit will get more into the d zone style of AV on Monday. Stay tuned.

      • AD says:

        Dave, question:

        Under our old system, we had one of the best defensive teams in the league; one of the best 5v5 scoring teams in the league, and one of the worst power plays in the league.

        Doesn’t it seem to be too aggressive and risky to compromise one of the best defensive structures, when our primary area of weakness is the power play?

        Last year’s team with a solid power play goes a lot further than it did; and the prior season’s team goes to the Stanley Cup.

        • Dave says:

          The problem was that the low zone collapse was figured out by the playoffs. It’s not a puck possession style of play. It’s reactive instead of proactive. That’s what they need to change.

          The rest, except for the PP, should fall into place. I noticed AV was sending 2 guys deep instead of 1, so it looks like a 2-3 lock instead of what we expected (1-2-2).

          • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

            I noticed this too. Not a strict 1-2-2. I liked what I saw with that.

          • AD says:

            Ok thanks for shedding light on the drawbacks of last season’s structure.

          • Puck Luck (@Centerman21) says:

            That would be nice. Sending 2 in deep at least for parts of the game. If you have a lead, then you can fall into a 1-2-2. I like that better than using the 1-2-2 all game. The 2-3 lock sends F1 & F2 in deep or does it send players in deep by position like RW & C while the LW stays back? I saw both Wingers Forechecking at times.

  7. Walt says:

    As much as we all want to go 82-0, you have to give credit to the dogs, they played well. The Rangers looked out of sorts, and positional play wasn’t the best, but as Tommy T said, this team will click.

    The officials missed the goalie interference on Hank, and the rest is history. That’s not to say we wouldn’t have lost just the same, but it didn’t help any. I love Hank, but please, someone teach him how to handle the puck!!

    OK now, we got a bad one out of our system, lets start to click. Oh, I like the fact that Nash droped the gloves to protect Step, not his job, but he stood up for a team mate, and that goes very far as the season progresses!

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      Thanks Walt,forgot to mention Nash dropping the gloves.

    • Dave says:

      If you don’t put yourself in the position to blame the refs, then you’ll never need to blame the refs. Missed interference or not, the clear needed to be harder and to a corner.

      • Walt says:

        Can’t argue that point! All I was trying to say is Hank shouldn’t touch the puck except if he has to, he just can’t stick handle it like the dough boy accross the river!!

  8. HARLEMBLUES says:

    Mats Zuccarello was the best Ranger on the ice.His skill level is so so high.That line needs a finisher and Pouliot may not be the guy.I think the guy is in Hartford getting better(Krieder).Marc Staal’s two-way game will shine in AV’s system.PK needs work still.Brian Boyle hold on to your stick big guy.Defensive zone coverage still needs work.BRich flubs a one timer that would have tied the score.Team work in progress.

    • Dave says:

      Considering Hartford hasn’t played a regular season game yet, it’s tough to present an argument that Kreider is getting better.

      • HARLEMBLUES says:

        Practice,yes practice and watching of film can make one better.Yes practice.

    • AdamGravesIsTheMan says:

      I also noticed that Boyle had two shifts back-to-back where he was stickless, but I’m pretty sure the second time he didn’t drop his stick, he broke it. But both shifts were painful to watch.

      Other observations:
      - We struggled with neutral zone passing (way too many long, incomplete passes)
      - We need better shots. First off, we missed too many shots high and wide leading to Phoenix breakouts instead of getting them on net for rebounds. Second, we need to have better shot selection. Too often we were shooting from the boards and trying to beat Smith
      - We had a very tough time beating their forecheck and getting out of our own zone (directly led to at least 2 of their goals)
      - I really like that our dmen pinch at the blue line and are more aggressive in the neutral zone
      - Besides for his one great pass that led to our goal, Nash was very quiet. Barely saw him with the puck at all. Our first line needs to improve their chemistry (consequence of Stepan’s hold out) and be more dominant

  9. Bloomer says:

    Enough with the excuses, AV did a poor job in prepping this team for the regular season. The Canucks were notorious slow starters and that trend has continued in New York. The team is already losing their disciple (stupid penalties) another Canuck trait. AV is not a bad coach, he just isn’t a great coach. The Rangers have not shown any signs of improvement in any areas of their game so far. They are underachieving.

    • Evan M says:

      If they keep up this pace, they’ll lose 82 games. There’s a difference between excuses and reasons. I liked a lot of what I saw last night. Some of those guys have been playing years and years with a different style. That doesn’t change 100% in one camp

    • Randy says:

      It has only been one game…there is no reason to jump to all of those conclusions already. We got chances, Mike Smith played well, and the coyotes capitalized on some defensive lapses and Brian Boyle broken sticks.

      I thought that Zuccarello was by far our best player, followed by Staal and then Richards. JT Miller had some good flashes, but he needs to bury that breakaway if he wants to stay up. I think the 3 day break before LA gives the team a chance to watch some film and see their defensive problems, and then I think Fast gets sent down for Cally (though I thought Fast player well).

      Everyone needs to avoid panic during this road trip. New coach, new system, and 9 away games against high caliber western conference teams who we are not used to playing. It may take a few weeks, but I can already tell that this team will be more exciting to watch.

      • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

        Fair point about Western Conference teams the Rangers aren’t used to playing. The Rangers didn’t even play any Western Conference teams last season, so they are behind the 8 ball in that regard.
        These teams all have their same coaches/styles and are playing at home. That’s an undeniable disadvantage for the Rangers this trip.
        I think we all (if we were realistic) realized that this opening road trip would be a grind.
        Very rarely can a team missing 3 players from its top 6 for all of camp with a new system starting on the road against teams they haven’t faced in a year and a half be successful.
        Give them some time before completely throwing the book at them. Give AV a chance.

    • VinceR says:

      I remember last season and some of the same offenders jumping off the wagon after one game…back then it was “but every game matters so much more in the shortened season”. Now it’s “but they had a pre-season”.

      At least we have Mikeyyy off the ledge, even if it’s because he didn’t like Torts ;)

      But yeah, let’s give this a month or so before we start declaring disasters. Anyone remember how the 11-12 season started?

  10. Evan M says:

    I did enjoy the game… loved that line of MZA-Brass-Pouliot, especially on the PP. Some early season, new coach issues, but overall I thought it was a fun, high energy game. McDonagh is tough SOB, literally taking one on the chin.

    I expected Hank to be a bit of weak link last night after how last year started, and how his camp went. He should’ve had that first goal. Clear line of sight, in the slot. Hank, when he’s on would normally get that. He was good last night, just not elite.

  11. Chris F says:

    BSB,

    Can you comment on what you saw in terms of overall toughness? I missed most of the game, but saw Dorsett and Nash (!) drop the gloves. How did the team respond to physicality?

    • Dave says:

      Wasn’t really a “tough” game. No need for it. Some good hits, Nash stood up for Stepan when Hanzel leveled him. That’s about it.

  12. VinceR says:

    Welcome back, game recaps!

  13. BobM says:

    This is from a friend of mine who is a Coyote season ticket holder:

    Bob,
    Yep your Rangers were all you feared they were. There were times that I thought a mini mite team came out onto the ice. Dang we looked great!
    Actually the Coyotes played energized and to win! Hopefully they can keep the momentum up.

  14. Steven Cifuentes says:

    Do you feel AV took to long to set this roster and gave fringe players a shot way to long?

    I feel like the last couple pre-season games just bleed into this game as key players were sitting all pre-season every game.

    It will just slow down the learning process. Just an opinion/thought on how this felt just like a pre-season game with guys adjusting on the fly.

    Not that game 1 new system I did not expect some breakdowns, but felt like the full team never got a shot to learn together in preseason.

    • Chris F says:

      Steven, I tend to agree. I think this roster was pretty much set, at least among Rangers fans, for a long time. We knew who the real starting players were but AV, being new to the organization, gave everyone an equal shot. It probably wasted alot of time that could have been spent transitioning to the new system.