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5 reasons why the Rangers have struggled two months into NHL season

Rangers struggles persist
New York Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren (55) skates during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
AP Photos

We are now two months into the NHL, and when it comes down to the league’s biggest disappointment, the New York Rangers are at the top of the list. 

Coming off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, the expectations of New York getting back to the Stanley Cup playoffs have been flipped after their latest three-game losing streak. 

There is a lot of blame to go around for a team that is struggling to gain any sense of consistency as the calendar turns to December, but here are five major reasons the Rangers have struggled to this point. 

5. Jacob Trouba

This isn’t to say Jacob Trouba is a bad captain by any stretch. There’s no evidence to support that his captaincy is the reason for the team’s downfall.

His play, however, has been a major issue for New York. 

Trouba has missed several practices this year already with Gerard Gallant explaining that he’s dealing with a few injuries at the moment. Therein lies the problem. With Trouba not healthy, and still playing top defensive minutes, other teams are exploiting him and taking advantage of the veteran. 

So long as Trouba doesn’t recognize he could use a game or two to get healthy, the Rangers’ defense will continue to get exploited as he continues to play through injury. 

4. Turnovers

The Rangers have a terrible knack for not only playing down to opponents but being extremely sloppy with the puck. In Monday’s 5-3 loss to New Jersey, New York turned the puck over 23 times. 

Too many times this season we have seen the Rangers fail to move the puck up the ice or simply out of the neutral zone which has caused odd-man rushes for their opponents and forced the goaltending to make incredible save after incredible save. We’ll get to Igor Shesterkin later, but the number of mental mistakes the Rangers make a game is staggering when you realize how much talent this team has. 

3. Star power

Speaking of talent on the roster, New York has three players with over 20 points to the season so far this year. Outside of Adam Fox, both Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have been part of the issue for the Rangers so far. 

New York repeatedly spoke during the offseason about sometimes reminding Zibanejad that he is one of the top players in hockey. Too often this season the Rangers’ top center has been silent on offense, and his overaggressiveness on defense has led to points the other way. 

In 2021, the Rangers were bailed out by incredible goaltending from Igor Shesterkin. That’s not happening this year and it isn’t Igor’s fault. The stars around him haven’t played nearly well enough and it’s causing everything around the team to crumble.

2. Player development

Vitali Kravtsov. Alexis Lafreniere. Kaapo Kakko. All three players are talented and high first-round picks for the Blueshirts. All three have had disappointing starts to the season. 

That alone shows a lack of development that the Rangers coaching staff has done to their young core. With New York losing a boatload of key free agents during the offseason, the team needed to rely on their three young players to produce consistently. 

That hasn’t happened, and there’s evidence to support that a big reason for that is New York’s player development program. They haven’t gotten the results from anyone they need to so far this year. 

Kravtsov hasn’t played in eight games (though that could change soon), Kakko has missed excellent chances so far this year, and too often has Lafreniere looked like the wrong top pick. 

Want the results to start changing in New York? Look no further than the kids needing to produce. 

1. Gerard Gallant

Part of the young players not producing, and lack of consistency, or mental blocks that the team suffers through falls on the head coach. Gerard Gallant did an excellent job of getting the most out of his team last season. 

This year, too often have we seen a coach set in his ways and not open to change. Over the last week, with New York struggling to mount any offense, Gallant has remained steadfast in keeping the same lines together. Add in the fact that a lack of in-game awareness (timeouts included) has capped the Rangers’ success early in the year. 

Players have to produce, and there’s no doubt that the roster shares a large portion of the blame. But the lack of real changes, key in-game adjustments, or trust in the young talent shows that the Rangers head coach needs to improve or else the struggles will continue. 

For more New York Rangers news, turn to AMNY.com

 

 

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