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Under performing Rangers a concern after six games

(Bill Boyce, AP)

(Bill Boyce, AP)

No doubt about it, the Rangers have been incredibly underwhelming to start the season. They were outplayed in Phoenix, dismantled by Anaheim and San Jose, and bested by St. Louis (although they played well in that game). If not for strong showings in Los Angeles last week and Washington last night, we would be talking about the winless Rangers, not the 2-4 Rangers. The blame doesn’t sit squarely on one player, as almost everyone has been under performing.

In fact, it is easier to name those that are playing well. Brad Richards is playing well. Brian Boyle is playing well, although he gets a lot of unnecessary hate because of the name on the back of his jersey. Anton Stralman hasn’t been bad, although he’s facing awful competition so far. Ryan Callahan has been his usual self. Yup, that’s about it.

So what’s the problem?

You can blame the preseason schedule, which saw them start in Banff, play four games in five nights, and carry over 30 players until the end of the preseason. They never had a chance to gel as a team because they had so many players there.

You can blame injuries. Cally missed a game, Carl Hagelin is still out, Rick Nash is out for the foreseeable future.

You can blame new systems. Alain Vigneault has the club switching forechecking styles, neutral zone styles, and defensive zone styles. They say it takes a month to get used to new systems, but that’s with a full squad. The Rangers have had a full squad for two weeks. Plus, because of that ridiculous clause in the new CBA, they weren’t able to practice after the demolition in San Jose because teams are required to have a day off when they play three in four nights.

But in the end, it’s on the players. They aren’t making systems mistakes. They aren’t making mistakes due to inferior players in the lineup. They aren’t making mistakes because of fatigue. They are making Hockey 101 mistakes.

Against Anaheim, there were no less than three breakdowns that led directly to Duck goals. In San Jose, there were five breakdowns that led to goals. It got so bad against San Jose, that the goal breakdowns consisted of two words: “Wide. Open.” In Phoenix, three breakdowns. St. Louis: another pair.

Now the term breakdown is used loosely here. A system breakdown for the Rangers would be one too many guys overloading the strong side. A system breakdown would be half the team collapsing and half the team overloading, leaving a guy wide open. Those are systems breakdowns. The Rangers are having head-on-a-swivel breakdowns. That’s Hockey 101.

Think about it: The first thing you’re taught in hockey is don’t clear the puck up the middle. The second thing is always look around, and see where everyone else is. The Rangers aren’t doing this. At least half of the goals against this season could have been prevented by just looking around. By knowing that the man cutting to the net is the defenseman’s responsibility, by simply getting a stick in a passing lane. These aren’t mistakes that the Rangers should be making.

The good thing is that these are mistakes that will resolve themselves as the Rangers adjust to AV’s systems. That may sound like a contradiction, but Suit pointed out that these mistakes the Rangers are making are because they are taking an extra second to make sure they are covering the right guy. That extra second taken (along with not covering the right guy in some cases) is costing them dearly.

I specifically held off on writing this until after the Rangers played a complete game. Why? Because there are still growing pains to go through. Games like last night will be what the Rangers eventually become, and hopefully last night is them turning the corner. As for now, I’m expecting a few more hiccups. But even then, we’ve seen what they will be, and it’s only a matter of time until they play like they did last night on a consistent basis.

12 Responses to “Under performing Rangers a concern after six games”

  1. Tyler says:

    I agree with all points. I believe that as soon as our depth, meaning zuccerello, pouliot and brassard(not so much him though) find out how to produce, the rangers will be a far more dangerous and competitive team. Pouliot and zuccerello are huge dissapointments so far. I am huge zuccerello fan, but if he can’t put it together, who knows what will happen.

    • Dave says:

      Another aspect to consider here is the injury factor. Nash/Hagelin are ahead of that trio on the depth chart. Figure that trio will get lesser opposition against them when the injuries are healed.

      • Puck Luck says:

        Isn’t this post a little past it’s time? They won last night and looked like NYR hockey. I blame the trip to Banff for the bad start. Without the 9 game road trip and 4 in 6 nights, it’s a good way to put a team together and it was for a good cause in helping flood victims. With all that it just made the players miserable. That early in the season with a new coach and some new players just compounded the problem. They looked good last night. They’re back East now and things are looking up. A win in NJ & Philly and they’re .500. Then Det to end the trip.

        • Dave says:

          I timed it like this for a reason. One win doesn’t mean they’ve figured it all out. We are still going to have facepalm coverage fails.

    • Mark says:

      The team lacks toughness and this has been written in comments section ad nasuem. You need skill players to score and if they dont then you are better offer with tough corner players. It is early but i have never been of the opinion that Pouliot and zuccarello would score. I do think that a recovered hagelin will. By the way if that had been Crosby that got hit like Stepan did last night there would have been strong retaliation.

  2. rwa says:

    Good thoughts, Dave.

    I do think on the D, man on man coverage is much different from collapsing in front of goal. D men going all the way in offensive zone is something new. The D men are not used to it yet.

    But I think forward talent is very thin. People always talking where are the goals coming from. Team lacks speed and toughness. Like last night, the hit on Stephan, no retaliation. Question, last two years, how many concussions for and how many have we given. Other teams take advantage of our softness.

    And I don’t mean having a goon, but guys who have some talent and play with an edge.

    Not much to trade so as to save our kids. Injuries to two or three top guys and were in big trouble.

    But I do think we will get better over time, just how much I don’t know.

    • Dave says:

      The overload isn’t straight zone or man coverage, it’s both. More info here: http://www.blueseatblogs.com/hockey-systems/

    • Walt says:

      Agree to all stated. I am one who has been calling for some players with gonads, and all they send us is the Zucc, Pouliot, Pyatts of the world. Now if they had skill, and showed it, well we would be happy. For so many years we have been soft, and nothing will change.

      Think back to the Stanley Cup play-offs vs the Flyers, 74-75 season, we were beating them, then Dave Shultz beats the crap out of Dale Rolf, not a Ranger came to his defense. They would be us, and go to the finals. That is our history, and it doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon!!!!!

      • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

        The 11-12 Ranger team was not soft. Maybe the toughest team to play against that season.

        • Walt says:

          There are exceptions to every rule. Yes they were tough, but how many years before, and after have they?????

  3. Steven Cifuentes says:

    Nash and Hagelin come back flank them with Stepan.

    Love the Richards/Broussard/Cally line.

    That is a solid top 2 lines.

    If that means Zucc/Poilet one is benched and one adds some offense to a defensive line so be it.

    Depth being tested right now, but in a couple weeks hope lines and roles fall into place.

    Have to say the main reason I feel better about top 2 is the play of Brad Richards. He is the key to top 2 lines.

  4. Psul says:

    I hope your right !!!!!!!
    They look so confused out there. I’ve always said: so goes Hank, so goes the Rangers!!!!!
    He has looked terrible out there without his defense I front of him.