Rangers need their leadership group to step up after “disappointing” Game 4 effort

Rangers leadership group needs to step up
New York Rangers’ Jacob Trouba (8) shoots the puck during the second period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the New Jersey Devils Monday, April 24, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
AP Photos

New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant didn’t hold back when he criticized his team, and his leaders after their Game 4 loss to New Jersey Monday night. 

Speaking to reporters after the game, the second-year coach in New York called his team’s effort “lazy” and “disappointing” following their 3-1 loss to the Devils to tie the series at two.

Just as last season, the onus now falls on the large leadership group for the Rangers to turn their once-promising season around. 

When Jacob Trouba was named captain of the Rangers this offseason, the goal of the organization was to continue to have a large group of older veterans who acted as the “leadership group” to get the team on the right track. There have been moments in the regular season where their actions spurred the entire team to new heights. 

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are different though. New Jersey currently has all momentum, and their adjustments have shown to be a big reason why they earned back the home-ice advantage they built before the series started. 

“They clogged up the middle pretty good. There weren’t a lot of great opportunities for us to score,” Trouba said after the loss. “We weren’t sharp. Focus on getting back to that clean and crisp game we had in Games 1 and 2.”

New York’s roster was far more reserved following their loss than their head coach. While Trouba and other players on the defense didn’t struggle by any stretch during their last couple of games, the Rangers’ lack of production from the top lines has been a major issue since the series shifted to Manhattan. 

Gallant singled out the top lines after the game stating “that was the difference” for the loss but ownership could specifically fall on the two leading scorers from the regular season. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have totaled just four points, and one even-strength assist in four playoff games against the Devils. The six combined giveaways in the last two games though haven’t helped the team’s struggling offense. 

“It may not look like it and I think we’re overworking a few situations. Trying to do it all in one play and not just chip away and get into the game and earn our chances,” Zibanejad said after Game 4. “When that happens we might wait for someone else to do it. We just have to go back to play the way we played all year.”

Devils take Game 4 with 3-1 win
New York Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad (93) fights for control of the puck with New Jersey Devils’ Michael McLeod (20) during the first period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Monday, April 24, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)AP Photos

In regards to finding a way to fix it, Zibanejad took on the same focused and even-keel approach that he’s had for the team over the years.

“They’re obviously quick and they’re good at getting pressure on you. I think we can do a little bit better job playing faster. That goes for all five guys on the ice. I think when we let them get set, it’s hard for us to get in their zone.”

It’s not fair to state that there is a disconnect between player and coach going into Game 5 for the New York Rangers. How the leadership group and the rest of the team respond to being called out for a lack of effort though will ultimately determine if New York moves on, or a team with one of the largest influxes of talent in hockey history will bow out of the playoffs before even winning a series. 

And for the sake of the future of the franchise, the leaders need to make sure their struggles don’t carry over to Newark. 

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