Rangers’ Inconsistency is Cause for Concern


While the Rangers are getting big wins, they need to address their defense. (Courtesy of Twitter)

After a three-game losing streak, the New York Rangers bounced back with an 8-2 statement win against the Detroit Red Wings, only to post a 2-1 loss against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. Before flying out for a West Coast road trip, they defeated the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 on Sunday night. Igor Shesterkin returned to his Vezina-winning form against the Yotes, almost recording a shutout with 31 saves on 32 shots. Yet the Rangers find themselves in a precarious spot: inconsistencies on both sides of the puck are preventing them from playing at the highest level.

Before the explosive win against the Red Wings, the losing streak forced head coach Gerard Gallant to shake up the core lineup for the first time this season. A notable change was Chris Kreider’s removal from the first line and placement on the third line, breaking up the Kreider-Mika Zibanejad chemistry. Gallant put them back together in the very next game, but had Jimmy Vesey slot in at the right wing position instead of Kaapo Kakko. The Rangers’ five-on-five play has been mediocre at best this season, and Gallant hopes that the lineup changes will uncover some potential chemistry between players that don’t usually play together on a daily basis.

Frustration on the defensive end continues, though there isn’t much wiggle room when it comes to the defensive pairs. Zac Jones has been unable to cement a position in the third pair, with Libor Hajek consistently starting alongside Braden Schneider.

Ryan Lindgren was out with an injury for two games, making his return in the losing streak-snapping game against the Wings. The Blueshirts’ newly-minted captain Jacob Trouba is reportedly playing through injuries, and his partner K’Andre Miller has been largely absent defensively and has made minimal offensive contributions all season long. Adam Fox is clearly the Rangers’ MVP on defense so far, with a consistent offensive outpouring and fairly average defense. Inconsistency on defense end is without a doubt the Rangers’ most glaring issue.

On a more positive note, eight Rangers players had multi-point games in the blowout win. Fox scored four points and Zibanejad tallied two goals in the rout, while youngsters Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravstov capitalized on the abundant offense opportunities with three combined points. The match-up against the Predators wasn’t nearly as exciting, with the lone goal coming off of Chytil’s stick. Backup goalie Jaroslav Halak posted another loss and has yet to tally a win this season. His save percentage of .883 sits among the worst in the league. Juuse Saros, the opposing goalie, made 34 saves on the Rangers’ 35 shots, a stellar performance in the low-scoring game.

Star forward Artemi Panarin has 22 points through 17 games, the most of any player on the team, but has a negative eight plus/minus rating, which is the difference between how many goals and goals against the player has been on the ice for. This rating is three points worse than any other Ranger, with five other players at negative five. His negative eight rating is among the worst in the entire league this season. Panarin is not known for his defense, but this level of play is detrimental to the team.

Though it’s still early in the season, there’s no time like the present to sort out these issues and make changes in order to raise the bar for the rest of the year. Falling behind early can come back to bite the Rangers, especially as they are looking for a better result compared to their Eastern Conference Final loss last season. The expectation this year is to win the Stanley Cup, and a significant improvement needs to be made to reach that goal.