The New York Rangers kicked-off 2018 with an exciting Winter Classic win against the Buffalo Sabres. That was about it. The month of January was abysmal for the Broadway Blueshirts, reminding many of the bleak October we thought was in the past.
Judgement Day Nears for Floundering New York Rangers
With a mere five wins over the course of 12 games, the Rangers are in serious trouble. If the playoffs started tomorrow, they would be golfing. They sit a point behind the Philadelphia Flyers, who hold the second wild-card spot in the Metropolitan Division.
A King Without Men
The positive aspects of the team are few and far between. Luckily, Henrik Lundqvist remains a consistent hope for New York. Unfortunately for the Swedish King, Alain Vigneault has ridden him into the ground due to Ondrej Pavelec’s own inconsistencies. Pavelec got the start against the San Jose Sharks, probably thanks to Hank’s complete fatigue after starting 10 games in January. Even though the Rangers earned a regulation win against the Sharks, it was no thanks to Pavelec who’s save percentage was a poor .821 percent in the 6-5 win.
No Light in this Lamp
Scoring has also been a complete disaster for the Rangers. Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller virtually disappeared. Miller was even benched after the first period in Anaheim due to his sloppy turnovers turning into golden chances for the Ducks. Surprisingly it was Rick Nash, snake-bitten all season, that put the Rangers on the scoreboard. He scored 4 goals on their woeful West Coast road trip, including two against the Ducks.
Ryan McDonagh scored his first two goals against San Jose, but that doesn’t make him a winner in the slightest. As the captain, McDonagh continues to sit back and make the same excuses loss-after-loss. His concern with the Rangers struggles is minimal. Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs must be a turning point to salvage the rest of this season.
The coaching staff has also continued to be a rampant issue. Adding to the big book of grievances against Vigneault this season, Kevin Shattenkirk revealed he has been playing with a torn meniscus in his knee all season. Shattenkirk was the blockbuster story of the off-season, there’s no question about that. However, Shattenkirk’s personal yearning to not disappoint “a lot of people,” snowballed thanks to Vigneault’s berating of his play to the press. The mismanagement of Shattenkirk’s injury is a massive issue and shines a light on the questionable treatment of professional athletes health.
Injury Issues Increase
Injuries plagued the Rangers throughout the month. With Kevin Hayes sidelined with a lower-body injury and Chris Kreider still out indefinitely, the Broadway Blueshirts were unfamiliar in January. The boys were comprised of mostly new faces from the Hartford Wolf Pack. Peter Holland, Vinni Lettieri, and Anthony DeAngelo played extensively throughout the latest road trip. Holland and DeAngelo will even return to the Rangers for Thursday’s tilt. While these are skilled players, there’s still a large difference between AHL play and NHL play. Sadly, from what’s been observed, the faster pace has proved to be too much for most. Especially DeAngelo.
Sitting now at 25-20-5 on the season, the Rangers are facing some tough decisions as the Feb. 26th trade deadline approaches. Rumors of McDonagh, Nash, and Mats Zuccarello being on the trading block have been circulating for weeks. Vigneault’s coaching abilities still remain a complete wild card and the future of this $1.5 billion franchise is in question. It’s also important to note that Lundqvist’s window is, sad to say, closing. At almost 36 years-old, he can’t play as many games as he has been. While he may have two more seasons under his belt, the need for an adequate backup has never been stronger.
With 32 games left on the horizon, all Rangerstown can do is pop a cold one and wait for a miracle.
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