The New York Rangers got off to an exciting 2-0 start to the season after beating two strong teams. It appeared the squad had picked up where they left off after last year’s run to the conference finals. But since then, the wheels have spun a bit for the Rangers. They have gone 1-3-2 since those first two wins and have now lost four straight games. The only win came at home against the 1-5-1 Anaheim Ducks.
New York Rangers Defence Needs To Be Better
One of the big differences so far from last year is the overall team defence. The Rangers let in an average of 2.49 goals per game last year, which was the second-lowest in the NHL. This year the team has let in 3.13 goals per game thus far which is worse than the league average. Team defence is the most important factor in winning hockey games and with the roster that New York has, it should be their biggest strength.
The Roster Is Built For Elite Defence
Top Four Defensemen
The top four defensemen for the Rangers are among the best in the world. Adam Fox is the number one guy on the team and in 2019 won the Norris Trophy for best defenseman in the league. His partner Ryan Lindgren is a coach’s dream. He plays a hard physical game and is a fearless shot-blocker. But there is very little drop-off to the second line. Jacob Trouba is the captain of the team and the hardest-hitting defenseman in the league. Alongside him is a budding superstar in K’Andre Miller. At only 22 years old, Miller has a ton of confidence and even more offensive skills. He is big and strong and uses his long reach well, but his biggest strength is his elite skating ability. But defensemen aren’t the only ones playing defence. The forwards are just as important in playing team defence.
Just like the back end in New York, the forwards are gifted defensively. Unlike many teams around the league, the Rangers’ goal-scorers and playmakers are also the forwards that play the best defence. Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider are both on the team’s top line and powerplay. But they are also the forwards on the top penalty-killing unit. Another defensive-minded forward is the second-line center, Vincent Trocheck. He was brought in in the offseason to bolster the top six and help with team defence. But again, he is one of the offensive stars on the team.
Finally, in net is the best goaltender in the world. Igor Shesterkin won the Vezina Trophy last year and was a massive reason for the team’s success both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Igor makes up for a lot of mistakes but even he hasn’t been able to mask the poor defensive play in front of him to start the year.
Tough Schedule Ahead
The bad news for the Rangers is that they are entering a tough stretch of their schedule while on a losing streak. Three of their next four games are against teams that are currently winning their divisions and have a combined record of 17-5-1. Those teams are the Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, and Philadelphia Flyers. It is not an ideal stretch of games to help turn your defence around.
Powerplay Needs to Get Going Again
The other thing besides goaltending that can make up for poor defence is the offence. And the Rangers are loaded with offensive talent. Their powerplay was one of the best in the league last year and got off to a great start in the first few games this year. In the first four games, the team had 5 powerplay goals and a record of 3-1. In the other four, they have only one goal on the man advantage and a record of 0-2-2.
Although it won’t be easy, the Rangers have to play much better team defence moving forward. They will get bailed out by their goaltending and powerplay at times, but without better defence, this team will have to fight for a playoff spot. But simply making the playoffs is well below the goals of a young team that made it to the conference finals a year ago. They expect nothing less than a Stanley Cup. The way they are playing right now makes that dream feel far-fetched.
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