It’s time to make some changes in the Rangers lineup

For the past several weeks, David Quinn and the coaching staff have kept the the Rangers lineup generally the same and free of changes. With the Rangers having played three more games and three points behind the Bruins, they are pretty certainly out of playoff contention (you never want to say completely).

The offense has been inconsistent at best for the last few weeks. They have hit high highs and low lows. In the month of March, this ranged from big losses to Boston and Pittsburgh, to a crazy 9-0 win against Philadelphia.

They have also had some close calls. A perfect example is Thursday’s game against the Sabres, where Buffalo scored with 3.6 seconds in regulation to force overtime. There was is no lack of opportunity though. The Rangers had 82 attempts in all situations on Thursday night against Buffalo (35 shots on net).

And in most games, the underlying numbers consistently show the Rangers outplay their opponents. But the outcomes are always drastically different. One thing remains the same — the goal scoring comes and goes.

Some options

In order for the Rangers to generate offense more consistently, lineup changes are a simple way to attempt to make a big impact.

There’s only so much players can do when things stay the same. Taking some risks and putting players on positions they may not have necessarily “earned” could help turn them into the exact players they’re looking for.

On offense

I have always been a fan of the KZB line, but they have been streaky lately — especially at 5v5. Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich feed off one another. With Zibanejad back to full form, now is the perfect time to get another skilled player in the mix.

Alexis Lafreniere is a perfect option to fill in at Kreider’s spot. While the young forward had the opportunity to play on the top line earlier this season, this was before Zibanejad came back to life.

While many (including Quinn) have argued that young players like Lafreniere have not “earned” the opportunity to play top line minutes, burying him on the third line with limited ice time is not doing him any favors.

Just look at Kaapo Kakko’s transformation since joining a line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. This is good evidence for how more opportunity can lead to improved play.

Plus, “kids line” has had its struggles, despite finally showing some life in the last handful of games. Adding a veteran like Kreider to the mix with Filip Chytil and Julien Gauthier could turn the third line into a real threat.

Kreider simply standing in front of the net when you’re on the ice automatically increases your chances of scoring. And scoring automatically instills confidence.

Let’s not forget too that Vitali Kravtsov is also waiting in the wings. This means your pairings could be:

Lafreniere-Zibanejad-Buchnevich
Panarin-Strome-Kakko
Kreider-Chytil-Kravtsov
Blackwell-Rooney-Gauthier

That is a well-rounded line up with four lines that would be challenging to play against.

On defense

One obvious move would be to split up Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox — I KNOW!

While this pair has been the best on the team, it would be an interesting experiment to see how each player performs away from one another.

While K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba have looked good together, there is a part of each of their games that could get a boost from working with Lindgren and Fox.

Lindgren playing such a stay-at-home role could give Trouba the opportunity to step up offensively. Miller’s defensive game has been stellar so far this season. Fox plays so well on both ends of the ice, it could encourage an uptick in Miller’s production while also maintaining the start he’s had on the defensive end.

And what is there to do with Libor Hajek and Brendan Smith than just deal with them? Quinn needs to limit their ice time, but that’s another story.

I guess in this area where you could say “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” But again, there’s really not that much to lose other than games.

Final thoughts

The beauty with all of this that if one or all of these lineup changes don’t work for the Rangers, you can always go back to your old ways! Even mid game!

Spreading out your talent and your strengths means a harder roster to play against on all lines. This is much more ideal than a roster that is top heavy with veterans and can be pushed around by the time you hit the third line (this kind of feels like what’s happening now).

With the Rangers out of the playoff race, they have a great opportunity to focus on developing their roster and especially their young players. Testing out different options means being able to make more confident decisions in placing additional talent as the team continues to grow.

And who knows, maybe these shifts make such an impact that the Rangers go on a hot streak and manage to make the playoffs. Crazier things have happened.

When building toward the future, it is important to understand the full capabilities in your roster. Without taking a risk, you will only continue to see the same results.

Thanks to the BSB Group chat for the inspiration on this piece. Happy to be here 🙂