After yet another disappointing late game collapse, the Rangers are under heavy scrutiny for their defensive play. The Rangers’ forward corps can hold some of the blame, but a few players have stood out as better suited to play in crunch time.
Three times already, the Rangers have had a lead in the final three minutes of the game and lost it. They have also lost all of these games in overtime. Every time this has happened, many have rushed to blame the personnel on the ice.
The defensemen continue to be the most obvious scapegoats, but following collapses of this proportion, the forwards on the ice are garnering blame as well. While there are forwards that are being utilized wrongfully late in games, there are forwards on the roster that should always be on the ice in these situations.
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Not much needs to be said about Jesper Fast’s defensive game. He consistently hustles in every zone, works the boards and the middle of the ice, and clears the puck with ease.
Fast anchors a solid third line with Kevin Hayes and Michael Grabner. While Grabner and Hayes both zip up and down the ice, Fast is the one making sure the puck stays out of the defensive zone. Fast is the one working the boards, always battling for the puck.
Fast also plays in every penalty kill, unless of course he took the penalty. He does it all on the penalty kill. He patrols the middle of the ice, defends passes, and chips out the puck, all with impeccable consistency.
This defensive prowess makes Fast perfect to play in crunch time. With the defensive breakdowns that are all too apparent recently, Fast should always be out there late in the game.
In this years edition of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Rick Nash has been a two-way beast. He has used his size and speed in every zone. And, he plays in every situation, even strength, on the power play and on the penalty kill.
What has made Nash’s play so special is how he uses his size to both retrieve the puck and protect the puck. His 6’4″ 212 pound frame allows him to easily rub out opposing forwards at the half wall or use his long reach to poke away offensive chances. While breaking out, Nash uses that same frame to fend off opposing forwards and defensemen, making him a matchup nightmare.
Late in games, teams need the type of player with the ability to make it work in both ends. Nash brings that type of play. Finally, he works hard in the defensive end, and makes it tough on attacking players to drive the net.
While this pick doesn’t seem to make all that much sense at first, Zibanejad has a fair few qualities that should make him a lock to play late in games. Late in games, many clearances turn into icings, which become defensive zone faceoffs. Of all the centers on the roster, Zibanejad gives the best option to win that faceoff cleanly.
Throughout these playoffs, Zibanejad’s play has picked up immensely as well. He’s picked up his play in all three zones, particularly in using his speed along the boards and crisp passing to exit the defensive end.
Additionally, Zibanejad’s faceoff ability and ease in exiting the offensive zone in multiple different ways makes him a great player in crunch time.
The Rangers have gotten themselves into trouble late in games, and the coaching staff has come under fire for their personnel choices. While the defense pairings have already been scrutinized aplenty, the forwards haven’t. Still, the Rangers have the players to handle the job; the coaches just need to realize who they are.