Now that 1/3 of the NHL schedule has been played, it is as good a time as any to offer some commentary as to the state of our beloved New York Rangers.
We heard earlier in the season that it will take this many games for a coach, Rangers head coach, Alain Vigneault to “get to know his players.” As of this morning, following the deeply disappointing 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, we still hear that the coach is still in this learning process, particularly when it comes to goaltending. Like life, the learning process should never cease, and this shouldn’t be a reason given for being a .500 team at this mark. With great love and attention, I offer these observations:
On the defense:
- Ryan McDonagh is downright thrilling to watch, and as the announcers said on air last night, he has really “rounded out” his overall game. I put him in the category of one of the best Blueshirts to ever don the jersey in the name of defense and this only continues from here.
- Marc Staal’s play in the pre-season and at the beginning of the year was inspiring. Coming back from his serious eye injury left doubts; he quickly dispensed with those as the season began. I’m afraid to observe, and no one is yet talking about this, Staal’s play has regressed a bit lately, getting beaten to pucks, being out of position, and giving the puck away, uncharacteristically for him. He just seems to have hit the proverbial wall.
The defense as a whole has settled down, and for the most part is playing well in the new “system.” I can’t help to wonder, aside from the man to man coverage that more regularly engages the forwards, just how different they are from previous seasons. They are blocking shots, blocking the shooting and passing lanes, and attempting to clear guys from out front. It’s as if they had to relearn what they already knew what to do.
- On the Forwards: I can’t get much bluer in the face on this. The puck possession is up, the scoring chances are up, the Rangers feature 3 decent potential scoring lines. Sometimes it is about shooting enough. But of more concern is that they just don’t shoot well. For these Rangers, as it has been for a while, sniper- like laser beams targeted for the corner, the 5-hole, or whatever a goalie may give up is lacking. If the barn door was 3 inches open, how consistently could they put the puck in? Rick Nash perhaps. To the team: please practice shooting with better directional intention, and try not to miss the net so much!
- Chris Kreider! (Enough said.)
- On the Goalies: Perhaps the best tandem in the league. Henrik Lundqvist usually takes a while to heat up so there is no concern there. Cam Talbot is at last human. They will need to make a few saves beyond the sensational, to the miraculous, if we are to go far.
- On the Coach: -I am still getting to know him…