Thoughts and Observations following Rangers loss to the Capitals
1) We’ve reached new levels of embarrassment. The first period was absolutely stellar. The Rangers outplayed the Caps by a wide margin, didn’t let Ovechkin do anything, and scored three goals. It looked like they had their game back. How on earth do you go from that to the absolute debacle of the third period? They gave up four goals, and two on the power play. The same exact problems, such as blown coverages, turnovers (less relevant in this game) and bad decision making led to an epic collapse and one of the worst losses of the year. I don’t want to feel like that again as a fan. I hope the players feel the same way.
2) Kevin Hayes hasn’t scored in 14 games. There are a number of forwards that have been struggling, but Hayes is honestly invisible. I forget he’s playing at times, which is crazy when thinking about how well he played last season. He must have the same mentality issues that Kreider has, because he looks absolutely lost.
3) Speaking of Kreider, thank goodness he scored yesterday. It was a pretty sweet goal as well. He needs to get going and start playing consistent. He had a strong game yesterday and needs to continue this consistently. No more long stretches with no contribution.
4) There has been only one forward that has consistently impressed me in this 14 game skid and that’s JT Miller. AV rightfully rewarded him with a spot on the first line and Miller delivered, scoring his seventh goal of the season. While the Rangers have slacked and gone 3-9-2 in the last 14 games, Miller has four goals and three assists, as well as a great possession rating of 55.2%.
5) When people mention untradeable players, they don’t usually mention Miller. But they should. He’s on my list. I really do see him developing into a 40-50 point winger soon, and he plays a bit like Ryan Callahan, but more skilled. He’s physical, always aggressive on the forecheck, and the goal he scored last night was brilliant, an example of what’s to come.
6) Dylan McIlrath has also impressed me since he became a regular starter. McIlrath legitimately has made maybe five mistakes that I’ve seen since becoming a regular starter. If it’s even that many. He is so steady and reliable. Jeff Beukeboom did a fantastic job with him down in Hartford, helping him develop into a bonafide NHL player. He’s choosing when to make hits and be physical at the right times, he’s very dependable along the boards and in his own zone, and we’ve seen him add a touch of offense to his game, and he’s been really impressive when pinching and keeping the play alive on attack. I don’t care how it’s done, but McIlrath needs to stay in the lineup, even when all defensemen are healthy.
7) Enough with the Dan Boyle hate, because he has been awesome. Who cares that he’s 39 years old. He’s been more reliable than the so-called “best defenders” on this team. In the last seven games, Boyle has scored four goals and added another two assists. He’s been great on the power play as a right handed shot on the first unit, which is how he scored last night. AV scratched Boyle earlier in the year because he insisted that they want to keep him fresh for the playoffs. But the truth is that Boyle has been playing better with the increased ice time. He’s logging 20+ minutes a night, lots of power play time, and he’s thriving in it. Boyle doesn’t deserve to be scratched either.
8) Now on the topic of Vigneault and his choice to scratch Boyle/McIlrath at times, his decision making needs to be questioned. Blueshirt Banter put up a great article on the topic, which you can read HERE. Simply put, AV makes some mind-boggling decisions at times. Last night, Tanner Glass was promoted to the third line with Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello. I have been a supporter of Glass since he has been recalled, because he has been playing much better lately in both areas of the ice. But he isn’t a third liner at all. Keep him where he belongs, on the fourth line.
9) One of the reasons Glass plays all of the time is because AV plays favorites. He has his guys that he knows, trusts and likes, and chances are that they’ll always play. Remember when AV consistently played Glass over Anthony Duclair, Jesper Fast and JT Miller? That’s a problem. There’s also an over-dependence on veterans in this system. And again, I don’t mean Boyle, because he’s been handling his business. I mean guys like Girardi and Staal, who continue to get heavy minutes against top competition despite a deteriorating skill set. Girardi is the player who should get sheltered minutes, not McIlrath or Yandle. Staal is a better skater, so I can see him rebounding, but he is working himself into the same conversation as Staal.
10) Keith Yandle is the best offensive defenseman on this team by a longshot. It’s not even close. So why does AV insist on putting McDonagh out for the first 1:30 of the man advantage and leaving Yandle with nothing to work with? Yandle did make a bad mistake on the power play last night, but he should be used like PK Subban and Alex Ovechkin are. On the ice for the entire two minutes of the power play.
11) Using McDonagh for a lot of time on the power play also has some other bad implications. Because he’s gassed from 1:30 on the man advantage, McDonagh isn’t rested for the penalty kill. That means AV has to stick Chris Summers on the kill in last night’s game. And we saw how well that worked out. AV’s misuse of his defensemen lead to bigger problems in other areas of the game.
12) Tanner Glass played for :22 on the power play last night. C’mon Vigneault.
13) All of these lineup decisions, failure to make adjustments and matchup errors lead me to two main topics; accountability and pedigree. Vigneault has no problem benching Stalberg or Etem or Miller for a mistake, but if Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh or Marc Staal make a mistake, they’ll still get used heavily and play 20+ minutes the next night. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, or the letter on your chest, or your past experience. If you’re playing poorly, then you should be held accountable. Ryan McDonagh is the captain, but he has had a terrible season. 17 points is alright, but defensively he has been terrible. He should be held accountable. Scratch Girardi for a game. Scratch Staal. Let a hungry McIlrath continue to play. Let Etem continue to play if Kreider and Hayes don’t get their act together. None of it matters if you aren’t producing and if you’re playing poorly.
14) The same goes for AV. He seems to get a pass from the fans and media because of his pedigree and success. He shouldn’t. Hold everyone accountable. Vigneault has made some really questionable decisions and he’s made some mistakes, and he hasn’t made any significant adjustments to the lineup or his game plan. They’re doing the same thing and wondering why it isn’t working. It doesn’t make sense and something needs to change.
15) I know some people will take this the wrong way, so let me be clear. I am not saying that AV won’t make adjustments, or that he needs to be fired or that he can’t come up with the answers. I think he can and I think he’s a smart guy and I don’t think he should be fired. But I also don’t think he should get a free pass on all of his decisions.
16) The media has annoyed me during this skid. Not because of what they’ve written, but because they refuse to ask real questions. I can’t stand Larry Brooks’ topics when he writes articles most of the time, but at least he would always ask the tough questions, even if they were kind of stupid. He forced the coach to address a problem that everyone saw but was too afraid to ask. I can’t stand when people ask “so what went wrong tonight” or “how will you bounce back.” They’re bad questions that lead to generic answers that contribute nothing to an article. Last night, someone kept pressing AV during his press conference about pulling Lundqvist, asking if “it was a tough decision to pull him.” Everyone in the building realized that Hank was getting abused out there by the Caps and got no help from his defense, He wasn’t playing great either. So Vigneault gave him rest. Clear as day. Nobody asks questions like “what can you do about McDonagh’s defensive struggles” or “what have you seen from Hayes that speaks to why he isn’t finding success?” Why on earth hasn’t anyone asked him about Yandle’s usage on the power play yet?!?! Even if you don’t get the answer you want, at least you asked it. Force him to say something on the topic.
17) For all of the fans that stayed till the end and loudly cheered “Let’s Go Rangers,” you’re awesome.
18) This bad play isn’t a streak anymore. This isn’t a trend. This is reality. The team is fragile on defense, fragile mentally, and they aren’t the elite team that many expected them to be. The way they currently are structured is not that of a Stanley Cup winning team.
19) However, this doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Just like this team wasn’t as good as their results in the beginning of the season, they’re not as bad as they look now. This is regression at its absolute worst. These mistakes are fixable.
Posted on December 21, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged Alain Vigneault, Antti Raanta, Chris Kreider, Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi, Derick Brassard, Derick Stepan, Dominic Moore, Dylan McIlrath, Emerson Etem, Henrik Lundqvist, Jarret Stoll, Jesper Fast, JT Miller, Keith Yandle, Kevin Hayes, Kevin Klein, Madison Square Garden, Marc Staal, Mats Zuccarello, MSG, New York Rangers, New York Rangers blog, NYR, Oscar Lindberg, Rangers, Rangers blog, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, Stepan injury, Viktor Stalberg. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.