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Ryan McDonagh’s Strange Season

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The Rangers up-and-down start to the 2017-18 season has called into question every facet of the team.  From Alain Vigneault’s obvious flaws, to questions about Henrik Lundqvist’s “decline”, to the lack of real center depth, there’s been no shortage of talking points as fans and analysts have tried to figure out why the Rangers have been largely mediocre this season.

One of the players that’s caught my eye this season, often for the wrong reasons, is Ryan McDonagh.  Even the most staunch McDonagh fan would have to admit that the Ranger captain just doesn’t look right.  His up-and-down season reached its nadir with a historically bad performance on Tuesday night vs. Dallas.

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Categories : Players
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We’ve spoken a lot about the Rangersslow starts recently, and they were finally victimized by an early deficit. The Blueshirts lost on home ice for the first time in 8 games to the Florida Panthers 5-4.  The loss was particularly gut-wrenching, as the team clawed back from deficits of 3-0 and 4-1 to tie the game, carried by the newly formed “KDB” line.  David Desharnais filled in admirably on the top line for Mika Zibanejad, who warmed up but missed the game with a mysterious “upper-body injury.”  Desharnais, Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich recorded three points each and nearly propelled the Rangers to a memorable win.

Unlike Sunday’s game vs. Vancouver, the Rangers were not guilty of no-showing the first period.  They created several chances and generally controlled play, but still found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-0 score, thanks in large part to James Reimer.  His counterpart Henrik Lundqvist didn’t make it out of the first period, and the Rangers were eventually undone by a couple of egregious miscues (and a dubious disallowed goal) in what was otherwise a solid effort. Read More→

Categories : Game Wrap-ups
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In hockey, sometimes you lose games you should win, and others you win when you should lose.  The latter applies to the Rangers in yesterday’s afternoon tussle with the Vancouver Canucks.  The Rangers were awful in the first period, and only marginally better in the second and third.  They survived a frantic overtime and two shootout deficits before escaping with the win, their fourth in a row.

Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant again, and the Rangers made the most of the chances they were able to create.  It was a disjointed effort, rife with turnovers and sloppy defense.  It wasn’t all bad of course, as again the Rangers showcased their superior offensive talent and comeback ability.  The Rangers are a dangerous team when they have the puck, but they won’t be considered a serious contender until they improve defensively.  Read More→

Categories : Game Wrap-ups
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The Rangers brain trust.

Larry Brooks did what Larry Brooks does earlier this week, when he penned a State of the Rangers column in the New York Post.  Brooks took a fair approach to examining the team, but towards the end of the piece, he wrote the following in regards to the Rangers potentially trading Ryan McDonagh:

“If Gorton could create a bidding war between the clubs that appear the East’s elite, perhaps the Rangers could come back with Mitch Marner from Toronto or perhaps Mikhail Sergachev from Tampa Bay in exchange for the player [McDonagh] who for a half-decade has been the Rangers’ most important athlete other than Lundqvist and who still would have another year and another playoff remaining on his contract.”

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It is a rite of passage as a hockey fan to desperately scream “Shoot the puck!” at the team you root for.  It’s heard in arenas, bars and living rooms the world over, and why not?  After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.  Getting the puck to the net is never a bad play.  Insert hockey cliche here.  

Last night during the Rangers/Blackhawks game, Eddie Olczyk (who is currently battling colon cancer, and working for NBC Sports during his 24-weeks of chemotherapy – get well, Edzo!) pointed out several 2-on-1 chances for the Rangers that didn’t result in a shot on goal.  On the surface, this seems both insane and infuriating.  But if you’ve watched the Rangers closely, especially in the Alain Vigneault era, you know that this isn’t necessarily something new.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics
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Every few years, a prospect comes along that makes a fan base salivate.  Of course, the expectations of fans are often unrealistic, and the success of supposed “top prospects” is never guaranteed (unless they’re in the category of say, Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid).

A few years ago, Pavel Buchnevich became that prospect for Rangers fans.  Though he was just a third round pick, word spread quickly (along with plenty of impressive video highlights) that Buchnevich was the real deal.  Sporting great hands, a smooth stride and a high offensive IQ, the young Russian posted impressive point totals as a kid in the KHL, widely acknowledged as the second best league in the world.  When Buchnevich arrived in New York last year, everyone was anxious to see what he could do at the NHL level.

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Categories : Players
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McDavid has been a one man show in Edmonton so far.

Folks, we finally have a winning streak.  Last week, the Rangers took care of an expansion Vegas team on its fourth-string goalie (though they needed a late comeback effort to do it), and then swept the always-difficult Florida road trip.  While none of the games were perfect, the team’s process has been noticeably better since the third period of last Tuesday’s game against the Golden Knights.

This week, the Rangers continue what’s been a home-heavy early season schedule, with home games against Columbus, Boston and Edmonton.  The Garden has hardly been a fortress so far, with the Blueshirts posting a mediocre 4-4-2 record.  Despite success on the road in recent seasons, it would behoove the Rangers improve their home form, as the schedule will obviously include more road games than home games moving forward.

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Categories : Preview
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There’s no other way to put it: the Rangers are off to a terrible start this season.  But one month does not a season make.  Despite an overarching feeling of doom and gloom, the Rangers managed to stay within the magic number of 3 points of the last playoff spot when October ended.  There are still 69 (nice) games to go, and the task at hand for the Rangers is to have a good November to get themselves properly into the playoff picture.

Of course, there are more reasons for concern than hope.  Two days ago, Alain Vigneault was said to be coaching for his job.  Does that change going into tonight’s game against a good Tampa Bay team, just because the Rangers beat Vegas on Tuesday?  What about the highly public appearance of the Rangers’ top brass at the Montreal vs. Ottawa game earlier in the week?  Clearly, this is not a settled situation, and one wonders how this is all affecting the performance of the team in each game.

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Categories : Musings
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This is a big week for the Rangers

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This week, the Rangers will play games 10, 11 and 12 of an 82-game schedule.  Under normal circumstances, this would be a fairly nondescript week, with two Western Conference teams visiting the Garden before a road game in Montreal.  But these are not normal circumstances.

While this isn’t quite “must-win” territory, the Rangers have dug themselves a significant hole.  2-5-2 is a bad record, made worse when you consider that 7 of those 9 games have been played at MSG.  The Rangers are dangerously close to squandering nearly a quarter of their home games before Halloween.  On the flip side, wins over San Jose and Arizona will put the Rangers on a modest three-game winning streak heading into Hockey Night in Canada up in Montreal.  Here’s a look at the (important!) week ahead.

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Categories : Analysis, Musings
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A Plea for Stability

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Please pair this man with Shattenkirk!

The New York Rangers are officially in an early-season crisis, with just three points earned from their first seven games.  While many are pointing to a similar start in 2013-2014 as reason to keep calm, there’s enough statistical precedent to be concerned.

When a team finds itself in a downward spiral like this, there is never just one singular problem, but a combination of factors.  In addition to the intangibles (lack of confidence, bad luck) the Rangers have not managed their personnel well to this point.  There are curious lineup choices across the board, exacerbated by the nightly shuffling of players in and out of, and up and down the lineup.

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Categories : Coaching
Comments (63)