The New York Rangers flipped one switch but turned off the other
While they stepped up their defense, the offensive effort was nonexistent. Despite outshooting opponents in previous games, they found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard due to poor transition play. On Saturday, a new problem took the spotlight.
New York struggled to keep hold of the puck and struggled to get any offensive mojo going. It resulted in a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, putting a damper on Jonathan Quick's return to Crypto.com Arena. Despite the warm welcome he got from his 16-year hometown, the Rangers couldn't pull off the feel-good story for him.
The Rangers were flat, managing only two shots in the first period. Yet Captain Jacob Trouba said, "We got off to the start we wanted to ."Not sure what start he was seeing.
They never quite found their groove. L.A. took control to the point where the Blueshirts couldn't even get a shot on goal for over 22 minutes, stretching from early in the first period to the middle of the second. This time, there was no passionate push from the Blueshirts. Even Coach Peter Laviolette's switch-up, bringing in Tyler Pitlick and scratching Nick Bonino, didn't do anything.
They coasted through the game, operating at a mediocre level, and unfortunately, it resulted in their sixth loss in the last eight games.
Rangers' Offensive Woes and Quick's Return: A Tale of Missed Opportunities:
Their teammate's big moment didn't give them the boost they needed. The struggle was real, lasting for 26 minutes and 3 seconds if you're keeping tabs on five-on-five shots. It wasn't about turnovers; they were just getting outworked and stuck in their zone. Moving the puck out clean was challenging, and the Kings' relentless pressure in all three zones was a bit much. They weren't going for anything fancy, just a simple game, but the Kings executed it better. It wasn't because of their defense, despite losing 10 of their last 11 games. They've been rock solid in their end all season. Nope, their offense was struggling. Yet, like the Blueshirts opponents preceding them, kicker – they were opportunistic, just like the others. Talk about turning the tables.
Scoring seems to be the Rangers' achilles' heel lately, and you know the saying – you can't win if you can't score. They've tackled the recent defensive mistakes and turnovers that haunted them, but it might be taking a toll on their offense. They managed one goal on 23 shots with a poor 1.97 expected goals and went 0-for-3 on the power play. The Rangers have dropped seven of ten since the calendar's turn, with an overall record of 10-11-1 in the previous 22. It was supposed to be a turnaround win on an emotional evening, but it wasn't.
The first period was almost scoreless, thanks to Quick, but L.A. had other plans. With 34 seconds left, Trevor Moore pulled off a spin o rama, setting up Kevin Fiala for an easy finish and a 1-0 lead.
New York started the second period slow until Peter Laviolette sent in the big gun, Artemi Panarin. The Breadman delivered, sparking a sequence that ended with Adam Fox finding Chris Kreider for a tap-in, tying it up 1-1. It gave the Blueshirts hope despite being outplayed.
Yet, as fate would have it, that momentum was short-lived. Jaret Anderson-Dolan snagged the puck off Miller's stick, triggering an odd-man rush and a Quinton Byfield finish. Quick made the initial stop, but the puck got behind him; Miller tried to clear it, but it went right to Byfield for the tally. Quick made some stellar saves, finishing with 24, but the support was nowhere.
Missed chances haunted New York, especially on the power play, which technically ranks second in the league. However, since December 25, they've dropped to 15th. Facing the best penalty kill, they went 0/3, including a two-man advantage in the 1:39, which they couldn't capitalize on. David Ritchie didn't have to do much in his 22-save outing but did stone Lafreniere in the waning minutes with the right pad in front to preserve the 2-1 lead.
The Blueshirts also failed to maintain possession, losing 56% of faceoffs, which is concerning for a team regressing after starting the season atop the league in the dots department.
The Rangers were hoping for an emotional showdown, like the first time they faced the Kings this season, beating them 4-1 at Madison Square Garden on December 10. Yet emotions have been hard to find in games lately.
Trouba said, "We're going through it a little bit right now." No magic fix, just a straightforward look-at-each-other moment. His call? "We all have to bring a little bit more." But seriously, is that all there is? Maybe. Regardless, there needs to be more jam from this team. Trades won't fix this. The coaching staff is doing their part by hammering structure and putting players in the right situations. It's on the players to deliver and right the ship.