The Rangers were able to salvage their franchise-record homestand with wins over Minnesota and Toronto, but things still need to change if the Blueshirts are going to turn their season around.
New York’s 27th-ranked offense has been carried by the likes of Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Benoit Pouliot over the last two weeks, while the team’s top players continue to struggle. Rick Nash hasn’t scored in any of his last six games, and has just one goal in his last nine. Brad Richards hasn’t scored in eight games and Derek Stepan has just three goals in his last 23 games. Not coincidentally, those cold streaks have coincided with the team’s worst stretch of the season.
To be a true contender, you have to get secondary scoring. That hasn’t been an issue of late for the Blueshirts the way it has been in the past, but the team’s top offensive weapons haven’t been producing nearly enough. Nash, Stepan, Richards and Ryan Callahan (once he returns) need to carry the offensive load for the team on a night in and night out basis, while any contributions from the likes of Pouliot and Carl Hagelin are gravy.
Zuccarello, Kreider and Derick Brassard have all picked up their play, but those three guys shouldn’t be the top offensive options for any playoff team. They’re very strong supporting players, but that’s all.
Just look at the Bruins and the Blackhawks, two of the league’s model franchises. Boston’s fourth line has given the Rangers fits, but the Bruins absolutely need David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson to carry them offensively. Chicago is blessed with extraordinary depth, but even the mighty Blackhawks would struggle if Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp weren’t producing.
The best teams in the league get offensive contributions from up and down their lineups, but they can almost always count on their most talented scorers to chip in consistently. New York hasn’t gotten that all year, and though we’ve seen plenty of encouraging signs over the last week, this mini turnaround will be short-lived if the Blueshirts’ top forwards don’t start putting the puck in the net.