How far will the Rangers get this season?

It's All About The Fundamentals
Without three of their most important players, the Rangers were unable to follow some of hockey's oldest and simplest keys to victory

It's tough to overcome the loss of a player like Marian Gaborik, but the Rangers didn't help themselves last night

It's tough to overcome the loss of a player like Marian Gaborik, but the Rangers didn't help themselves last night

It shouldn’t be overly alarming that the Rangers lost to the Avalanche last night.  After all, they’re without three of their most important veterans, they stink at home, and they just happened to be facing a playoff team from last season that’s as fleet afoot as any in the league.  The loss shouldn’t have been a shock, but the things that happened during the game are very concerning given the state of the Rangers’ roster for the foreseeable future.  Any team would be weakened without three of its best players.  But the key to masking those losses is sound fundamental and positional hockey.  The Rangers struggled with that throughout the night. 

It’s been well chronicled that New York entered the season with much-improved secondary scoring.  But when that secondary scoring has to turn into primary scoring, it can be difficult.  Sure enough, without Marian Gaborik to draw defenders’ eyes and without legitimate threats in Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury, the Rangers had an extremely difficult time generating offense.  Sure after Coach John Tortorella called his timeout (amazing how those work sometimes and backfire others isn’t it?) the Rangers went on a parade of power plays and nearly evened the shot differential.  But it was also painfully obvious how hard the Rangers had to work to get scoring chances; work they weren’t very interested in doing at the start of the game.  Understandably the Blueshirt attack was weakened without three of its five top scorers from last season.  But given the style of play the Rangers play under Tortorella that could make for a very long few weeks.

Tom Renney may not have been the ideal coach for the Rangers, but he’d be in a much better position to handle the circumstances Tortorella must deal with for the next month or so.  Renney’s Rangers would have gone into a defensive shell and kept everything to the outside, giving Henrik Lundqvist a chance to steal games for the Rangers, or, at worst, lose games 2-1.  Tortorella’s style is far different, for better or worse.  He wants the Rangers to open it up and constantly be moving forward.  His ideal defenders are adept at moving the puck safely up ice and generating constant speed toward the opponent’s zone.  He is not, typically concerned with positionally sound hockey in his team’s own defensive end.  Its not all Tortorella’s fault that he doesn’t have the defensive pieces to cover up his team’s go-go attitude, but the Rangers were exposed last night and could be often in the next 10 games.  The Blueshirts haven’t had a crease-clearing defenseman in years, a problem that rears its head with regularity but was made even more obvious last night without the defensively responsible Drury and the puck-carriers up front to quickly guide the puck to safety.  Dylan McIlrath may be that guy some day, but it’s going to be painful to watch opposing forwards hammer away at the puck in front of Hank.  Outside of the perpetual problem of uncontested goals in front, the Rangers were chasing the puck all over their offensive zone.  That’s going to happen from time to time against a team as fast as Colorado, but the Rangers have looked disorganized in their own end all season.  That’s not insurmountable when they’re scoring, but since that will likely be an issue in the coming weeks, it’s going to be a lot more problematic.

Finally, as we mentioned in the pre-game, the Rangers will have little chance of victory sans their trio of injured forwards if they can’t capitalize on the power play.  After the first period, the Avalanche, deep into their east coast road trip, looked like they desperately needed a nap.  To that end, they made trip after trip to the penalty box.  The Rangers’ power play wasn’t terrible, especially considering whom it’s missing, but it has to put the puck in the net.  Clearly the team will have problems scoring at even strength.  If it wants to stay in games with decent teams and give Lundqvist a fighting chance, the power play has to convert.  The difference between a very good power play and a very bad power play is but a few percentage points statistically speaking.  But the difference between a good power play and a bad power play in real life is all about timeliness and consistency.  The Rangers haven’t had either in recent years, but now would be a great time for that to change.

Posted by Kevin Baumer | October 19, 2010 at 08:32 pm

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New York Rangers VS Chicago Blackhawks
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

  1 2 3 OT F
Rangers 3 0 0 - 3
Blackhawks 1 1 0 - 2

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