Thoughts (Rants?) following Game Three’s disgusting lossApril 17, 2017, by
Last night’s loss was the worst playoff game the Rangers have played at home in quite some time. I put this as worse than any game against Pittsburgh last year, and even worse than the Tampa games in 2015. Why, you ask? Simple: Tampa and Pittsburgh were good, deep teams. Montreal is not good and is not deep. They have top-end talent, but their depth is terrible. The Rangers should at least be generating chances, which they are not. As usual, I have some thoughts.
1. I know I spend a lot of time harping on the defense, but every forward not named Rick Nash should be ashamed of themselves. You know what. I’ll even throw Tanner Glass into that mix as well. He was better than expected. But you’re telling me that this group of forwards, against that awful back line, couldn’t generate any scoring chances? Carey Price could have taken a nap in net and probably would have only allowed the one goal. There was no forecheck. No controlled zone entries. Missed passes by a mile. Missed fundamental plays. Lazy shots. No driving to the net. Nothing. That’s inexcusable.
2. The defense should also be ashamed of themselves. Blown coverages, chasing to the blue line, allowing Royal Road passes, hanging their goalie out to dry. Just terrible. Plus, they can’t even connect on a breakout pass. The funny thing is that we knew all this heading into the season. It’s just maddening to see the same process over and over again with no change, ending with the same result. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?
3. Speaking of insanity, let’s focus on Alain Vigneault. This is the third straight year that the counterattacking style didn’t work in the playoffs. The stretch passes out of the zone don’t work against teams clogging the neutral zone and blue line. It’s time to adjust. Against a team like Montreal that is playing very passive, short and quick passes out of the defensive zone to help gain speed are a must. After that you have two men with speed with the puck carrier to gain the red line, then dump in. The two guys with speed –based on Montreal’s defensive positioning– will get in before the defense to retain possession. From what I saw last night, Montreal’s last two men are between the blue line and the top of the circle. Most of the Rangers’ roster will get to the puck first, as long as they get in with speed. The Rangers are skilled enough that once they gain the zone, they should be able to cycle and get chances, assuming they are fundamentally sound. Based on point #1, they are not.
4. It’s also time for AV to adjust with his lineup decisions. It’s very clear that the Rangers are not generating any scoring chances. This has nothing to do with Carey Price. This is on the guys on the ice. But it’s also time that AV puts his best offensive players out there. It comes with a risk of even crappier defensive play, but can it really get any worse? Perhaps, just maybe, putting Pavel Buchnevich and Adam Clendening in the lineup to help generate offense has an impact on both ends of the ice? Keeping the zone and generate shots and chances prevents Montreal from generating their own. It seriously can’t get any worse, so what else does AV have to lose? This isn’t a one game phenomenon either. It’s been all series.
5. There was a lot of complaining about the noise level at MSG last night. I vehemently disagree with those saying that the fans that can afford these tickets aren’t real fans. However there are a lot more corporate dollars spent on the lower levels nowadays, especially with those box seats in the 100’s. So perhaps there is a correlation there. But let’s be real here. Was there much to cheer last night? This has nothing to do with the score. The Rangers played like they didn’t want to be there. It was an uninspiring effort. I can’t afford to go to these games, but even if I were gifted seats, it would have been tough for me –without liquid courage– to been alive and rowdy and loud.
6. I’m incredibly frustrated with this team, but the performance is not a surprise to me. There’s a reason why a lot of folks were critiquing wins all year. The process was flawed. And the best teams in the league will exploit it. Going back to point #3, the counterattacking style is easily managed by good coaches. There needs to be depth and variety to the style of play. Counterattacking when you can, but also generating shots (Corsi%) and chances (Scoring Chances%). It’s not just one of the three. Heck, it’s not even all three of these three. There are so many variables in hockey. But we do know that CF% and SCF% do indicate good process. The Rangers have the skill to score. They lack the process. That’s on the coach.
7. Also on the coach is his terrible in-game deployment. Sure, the end-game stats show that McDonagh, Skjei, and Smith led in ice time among defenders. But Marc Staal was the leader through two periods. It’s simple. For the Rangers to stand a chance, that first trio needs to lead in ice time. Then Staal. Then pray. Because none of the other options should be playing right now.
8. We don’t deserve Henrik Lundqvist."Thoughts (Rants?) following Game Three's disgusting loss",