Note: No reviews from last night. One of those games that none of us could watch. Sorry.
As the Rangers lost last night, the reactions on social media were the same. The Rangers have lost three in a row, and really only looked good in two of their five games to start the season, and one was against Ottawa. Suffice it to say, there were questions about David Quinn, the lineup, and a myriad of other complaints.
The focus was on Tony DeAngelo’s benching, who only had one shift (a powerplay shift) in the second and third periods. Now we didn’t watch the game, but the concern was whether or not the benching made sense to extend into the third period when the Rangers needed offense.
The benching question is more a microcosm of what the season is going to be, and what the larger question should be. Is David Quinn going to be ok with losing with the kids as part of their growth, or would he prefer to lose with veterans playing in off positions? This extends to his comments about Kaapo Kakko and how, despite all the skill that has gotten him here, has “a lot to learn in the process.” What exactly does that mean? What is the process?
That is perhaps the question we all want answered – what process is DQ looking for? Is he ok with punting this season in the hopes of teaching lessons that the kids will keep with them for their careers? That’s ok, but let the roster process and ice time process reflect the overall goal of the season, lest we revisit the Lias Andersson ice time situation for the 80th time in five games, or why a third line winger is actually a third pairing defenseman, or when exactly Filip Chytil is going to be the 2C.
Perhaps another process question is learning from past mistakes. Chris Kreider has looked awful to start the season, in the final year of his contract where he doesn’t know his future. Sounds a lot like Mats Zuccarello’s situation last year, doesn’t it? Perhaps getting in Kreider’s ear about his future now, the way Quinn did with Zucc last season before his tear, is the way to go.
The process on the ice also needs to improve. The Rangers are laughably bad at controlling offensive tempo, which plays a role in their defense getting caved in nightly. It also doesn’t help that defensive system, specifically giving up the blue line regularly and allowing teams to gain speed through the neutral zone, leaves a lot to be desired. If there are lessons to be learned, it’s that allowing the opposition to gain speed and take the offensive zone until challenged at the top of the circle is not the best plan. It is basically shrinking the defensive zone by 10 feet or so.
Is a lot of this premature, given that it’s only been five games? Possibly. There are a lot of red flags that should at the very least be monitored. It doesn’t take rocket science to realize the Rangers have spent the majority of these five games in their own zone at even strength. If not for a lethal powerplay, there’s a chance this team is winless through the five games. Could you imagine that kind of panic?
In the end though, the Rangers are rebuilding. The roster today is not what we are going to see at the end of the year. Chytil will be the 2C by month’s end, or at least that is my prediction. Vitali Kravtsov will be with the club before the calendar year ends. It’s not going to be a pretty year, and there’s going to be a lot of questions about how the rookies and highly touted prospects are used. There’s no alarm yet, but there are a lot of things to keep an eye on.