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Rangers poor defensive effort hands Minnesota their 10th straight win

Bobby Bevilacqua

chris-kreider-behind-the-net-12-23

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After getting embarrassed at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers (23-12-1) had yet another disappointing effort, losing 7-4 to the Minnesota Wild (20-8-4) and giving them a franchise record 10th straight victory.

The Rangers offense was fine tonight, scoring four goals, but the defensive struggles continued. This time, goaltending wasn’t there to bail out the constant defensive miscues and blown coverages. Henrik Lundqvist was not at his best, allowing two weak goals, but there was nobody there to help him. Antti Raanta came in and gave up two goals, both two completely wide open Wild defenders.

You can complain as much as you want about the goaltending, the forward injuries, the lack of “grit” or “toughness,” but none of those issues are as big as this defense. It’s a tire fire at times and the usual offenders (Girardi, Klein) are not getting any better. Yes, it’s still December, but it’s better to solve this problem now.

Also, Alain Vigneault finally got Adam Clendening in the lineup, but decided to scratch Brady Skjei for some reason. Rather than Kevin Klein, who has had an awful season and was directly at fault for one of the goals, he sat Skjei, who has been very good on both sides of the puck during the opportunities that have been presented to him.

Alain Vigneault’s refusal to make adjustments to the defensive pairings are also infuriating. Dan Girardi is a heart and soul guy, but he is not a top pairing defenseman anymore. It’s not fair to him to be put in a situation where he cannot succeed. Either Nick Holden or Brady Skjei have to occupy that right side spot on the top pairing, and Girardi needs sheltered minutes. It’ll put him and the team in a much better position for success. He’s been somewhat decent as of late, but he just isn’t a top pairing defenseman anymore.

But while Girardi certainly hasn’t been helping the situation on the top pair, Ryan McDonagh hasn’t been great as of late either. He’s also been responsible for some miscues and blown coverages that were his own fault, and has to be better to pick up the slack from the other Rangers defenseman. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.

Adam Clendening is not going to be the guy that solves the team’s defensive problems. But he has to be at least on par with what Klein is doing right now. Those two need to start rotating more often to both give Clendening some regular minutes and because of Klein’s poor play.

The team’s poor defensive play also has to do with the forwards as well. Kevin Hayes and JT Miller have been a bit lax in defensive coverage, especially tonight. Looking at Minnesota’s fifth and sixth goal, neither a defenseman nor a forward were there to cover the Wild player. On Matt Dumba’s goal, he got three shots on goal without ever being touched or covered by a Rangers player.

On the bright side, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello had an excellent game. Kreider scored twice and Stepan had a goal and two assists with a +2 rating. They were the only consistently good line tonight.

This team desperately needs Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich and Rick Nash back. The lack of those three has killed their depth, and has forced guys like Oscar Lindberg, Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast to step up into roles that they shouldn’t be in. Once they come back, it will hopefully lead to the Rangers having more possession, more sustained offense and a more well-rounded game.

I’m not going to recap every play or goal tonight. But instead, I urge you to watch the highlights and just look out for the Rangers blown coverages, as well as things like not forechecking hard enough, not transitioning well, etc. These are consistent problems that need to be solved sooner rather than later.

The Rangers will take their Christmas break and resume play on Tuesday against Derick Brassard and the Ottawa Senators.

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Posted on December 24, 2016, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I couldn’t agree more with every single point you mentioned. As I watched that game I couldn’t believe how open those guys were left on most of those goals. They had second chances at their own rebounds and they were all alone to bang in those rebounds. It reminded me of when AV first took the team over and we were losing games like the one to the Sharks 9-2. I thought the offense played pretty good tonight. They had some real good looks. But the bottom line is they scored 4 goals and still lost.

    Like

  2. Can’t score 4, lose and expect to make playoffs.

    Like

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