The New York Rangers played a good game Monday night in their long awaited home opener, but were shutout 2-0 by Les Habs. That the Canadians have long been in the Ranger heads, with now a string of shutouts, is troubling enough. The larger concern is that even when the Rangers create chances, ones not called back by phantom interference calls at the blue line, such as against Chris Kreider in the 3rd period, the Rangers cannot finish. In other words, this is the gang that can’t shoot straight.
They checked well, managed some episodes of pressure, and got off numerous shots that were either blocked, missed the net, or were propelled harmlessly into the mid-section of the goalie Peter Budaj, (who?) none too challenged. This actually has been a foible for several seasons in a row. We’ve seen evidence of it in the past too with this team. The Big Whistle, Bill Chadwick, as color man, used to say of Gene Carr, “he can’t hit the ocean from a pier.” Perhaps chronic disease is a better word for it than foible. Now we can assume like any pro hockey players, each of these guys has spent long hours, certainly growing up wedded to their ice ponds into the late hours of the night, shooting pucks. Do they still practice shooting, and more shooting, nothing but shooting for accuracy, creating open lanes? Lifting the puck in close range?
The fans are not allowed to attend the practices; we hear of power play work, (15.6%) and installing the new defensive scheme. The defense is actually looking pretty good, the shooting not so much, and it’s everyone. We can start with Del Zotto. I am not a basher of the young defenseman; he has enormous potential. He is often in a position of having good scoring chances. His shots either sail wide entirely or are blocked. If he is trying to hit the corner and his shots go wide, he should shoot for the center of the net and then maybe he’ll hit the corner. This applies to everyone who seems to think that hitting the boards or the glass with the puck counts for something.
As a team, the shooters also either hesitate too long before shooting allowing the defense to get in position, or they are not patient when that is what is needed to go around a prone blocking forward. I bet the Rangers know all of this. Knowing and doing seem two different things. Go to finishing school and learn these lessons so they can execute properly; this is more urgently needed than any other part of their game.