It’s too early to tell if the New York Rangers are a major regular-season disappointment this year or not. That being said, the lack of scoring, inconsistent defense, and mental mistakes have been common themes that have held the Blueshirts from showing off their true talents as a top team in the Eastern Conference.
New York is 1-0-1 at the start of their West coast swing with another two games in California still to come Tuesday and Wednesday night. While the Kings await the Rangers in Los Angeles tonight, there are still five key problems that have held the Blueshirts back.
Let’s take a look at all five.
1. Why do the Rangers love the post so much?
A common issue with the Rangers in the early portion of the season is their inability to finish. In almost every game there’s a player who seems to have a great chance to score but ends up hitting the post or, missing the net entirely.
New York has a finishing problem that they haven’t solved over the first month of the season. The law of averages says a lot of these offensive chances will become goals, but expecting it to happen just because it keeps happening is the wrong way to look at it in my opinion.
2. Can the Rangers score 5v5?
Part of the Rangers’ inability to finish is their inability to score at even strength. It’s a problem that has plagued the roster dating back to last season and it appears that it hasn’t been fixed. New York’s powerplay is ranked 9th in the NHL, but players like Mika Zibanejad have just two goals at even strength all season.
If the Rangers are to win these last two games on the road, then they’ll need to produce more at even strength than they have.
3. Where is Vitali Kravtsov?
A lack of cap space during the most recent offseason meant that the Rangers would need to rely on young, unproven players like Vitali Kravtsov to take a leap and help New York produce offensively.
Kravtsov has played in just six games and hasn’t been seen in an NHL game since November 10th. Because of his absence, the Rangers have had to figure out their top six lines by moving Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey up a group.
To be fair, Kravtsov hasn’t shown anything yet in the limited action he’s seen, but, weirdly, the Rangers have not played a young player like him after just six games.
4. How long a leash will the kid line get?
The kid line of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko became a force to be reckoned with during the Rangers’ playoff run last season. That has quickly changed in the 2022-23 season.
The kid line has not produced a point and has been relatively quiet on this west coast trip. How much longer Gerard Gallant decides to stick with this young trio will be something to watch, but it’s clear the Rangers need better scoring in their top six.
It may not be long before the kids are broken up yet again.
5. How long will the Rangers keep Ryan Reaves on the roster?
When Reaves signed a one-year deal with the Rangers during the offseason, the idea was that he’d come in handy as a fourth-line bruiser. But with the improved play of Ryan Carpenter and the surprising exploits of Julien Gauthier, Reaves’ skillset isn’t exactly needed on New York’s fourth line.
How long will the Rangers be comfortable sitting Reaves before they feel they need to do something about the extra roster spot they could use to build cap space for the trade deadline?
As long as Gauthier continues to play well though, there really isn’t any room for Reaves in the starting lineup.