The New York Rangers aren’t playing very good hockey right now at the midway point of March. New York is 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, they’ve struggled with plenty of issues both on and off the ice and offer serious concerns about their potential as a title-contending team.
Whether it’s injuries or the after-affects of having to play shorthanded for over two weeks, the Rangers have plenty of things to be concerned about as a big week against top teams in the Metro division kicks off.
Here are five of the biggest problems facing the Blueshirts today.
Artemi Panarin and his turnover issues
After New York traded for Patrick Kane, many analysts and fans thought that bringing the former Blackhawk with his former teammate could be the perfect deadline move to complete a solid offensive group.
Through five games, it’s been anything but that.
Panarin has struggled since the Kane trade as the rest of the team learns to try and play with the three-time Stanley Cup Champion. In the five games since the blockbuster trade, Panarin has totaled five points but with 15 turnovers. Add in a key penalty he was called for in Pittsburgh on Sunday and it’s been a rough stretch for the Rangers’ top playmaker.
If New York is to get anywhere close to where they want to be in a month, Panarin needs to be playing a lot better.
Penchant for Passing
Speaking of Kane, he may have scored twice in his last three games since becoming a member of the Rangers, but there has been a major flaw since he’s come in that has been a plague on the offense.
No one wants to shoot the puck.
Throughout the last few games, New York’s powerplay has gotten better since their rough run just a week ago, but the lack of aggressive play is a big reason why New York hasn’t won a regulation game in over three weeks. Finding the perfect shot doesn’t always happen.
Putting pucks on the net seems like a simple game plan, but the Rangers have gotten away from the aggressiveness that they have been known for in recent years. Add in the inconsistent offensive play, and New York needs to be far more aggressive when it comes to making a play.
One player can’t be the reason for chief struggles but the loss of Ryan Lindgren has been a massive hole that the Rangers have struggled to solve. Since leaving a game against Washington weeks ago, the Rangers’ defense has struggled from a lack of physicality and awareness.
It’s not only the group of defensemen’s fault as we’ll get to in a little bit, but there are some simple issues that New York’s defense has as long as Lindgren remains out.
Then there’s the fact that Adam Fox playing with Niko Mikkola has been rough, to say the least. The sooner the Blueshirts get Lindgren back, the better.
Lack of defense from their forwards
Of course, a lot of New York’s defensive struggles aren’t solely on the defense. Over the last few weeks, it’s the lack of defense from their forwards that has seriously hurt the team’s chances of winning games they should be in.
When you have an aggressive team, it’s not uncommon to see forwards cheating up the ice for the chance at an odd-man rush. But when that happens, it leaves the defense, and goaltender alone in an impossible situation. When the odd-man rushers aren’t even generating offense due to turnovers, the lack of defense becomes the major reason for the team’s struggles.
When the forwards cheat up the ice, it leaves for plenty of open shots in front of the net from point-blank range. It’s how teams like Boston, Ottawa, and Pittsburgh have had a lot of success against New York in recent weeks.
If New York is to be competitive once the playoffs start, it’s imperative that the lack of defense from their forwards change drastically.
A team that houses Adam Fox, Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Patrick Kane, and Vladimir Tarasenko has plenty of talent that they shouldn’t be worrying about a lot of the current issues. Yet here we are.
In the end, the biggest problem the Rangers have is overconfidence in the stars they have and the game they play that it ends up biting them early on throughout contests that shouldn’t be close. This overconfidence leads to sloppy turnovers, poor defense, and indecisive offense.
Throughout the 2022-23 season, we’ve seen the Rangers battle the mental hurdles of being better than other teams but struggling to show it. New York should not have some of the struggles it is having.
And if that overconfidence doesn’t change soon, the Blueshirts could be looked at as one of the biggest disappointments in recent history.