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My Thoughts and the Rangers’ outlook after a catastrophic loss to the Dallas Stars

Bobby Bevilacqua

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Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

1. There is nothing positive that should be taken from this game. This cannot be viewed as a look at the Rangers’ resiliency or battling through adversity and nearly completing a comeback. There should be no positive light shed on this game, and it needs to be treated as it was – a disaster.

The Rangers were manhandled by the Stars for 40 minutes, and they looked absolutely lost on the ice. They were outshot 27-15 and surrendered seven goals. Henrik Lundqvist was not at his best but there were consistent defensive issues from the defensemen and the forwards, which did not help at all. The Rangers woke up for the third period and the Stars went into a defensive shell, which explains the 25-4 shot advantage from New York in those 20 minutes. Winning one period but looking pathetic for the other two does not warrant any praise. Treating this game as anything other than a failure would be to ignore the many, many problems that this team has.

2. To emphasize, this team has many, many problems. There needs to be a change, or many changes, but not at forward. It’s not a coincidence that the scoring has gone up with the return of Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. This is the best, most complete forward group that the Rangers have had in quite some time and it’s a group of forwards that could win a Stanley Cup.

3. The biggest problem with this team is the defense. I’m beating a dead horse but it’s true. Last night marked a low point for the team, which is shocking because it was the third time in the last 11 games that they have given up seven goals in a game. Sure, part of it is on Henrik Lundqvist, but the defense has been atrocious.

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Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After a decent start to the season, Dan Girardi is back to his form from last year, which is very bad. Kevin Klein is so much worse than last year, which is shocking, and might be worse than Girardi. On top of that, Ryan McDonagh hasn’t been spectacular but is being dragged down by his defensive partners, and the right side of the defense is a disaster. There need to be changes in the pairings, in the player’s usage, and even the defensive scheme and system they’re using because the current system is not working.

4. This brings me to the head coach, Alain VIgneault. My patience is officially wearing thin. I am super grateful for all of the good he’s brought to this team. He’s helped players like Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard flourish and grow into the great players they are now. He’s done an excellent job with young players, which is why we’ve seen tremendous growth and strides in Kevin Hayes, JT Miller and Jesper Fast. He’s had a lot of success in the playoffs during his first two seasons as well. But last year and this year, his stubbornness and inability to make adjustments are hurting this team a lot.

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Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Again, the biggest issue is his usage of defensemen. Whenever there’s a defensive problem or issues in the game, his solution is to give more minutes to Dan Girardi or Kevin Klein, aka the two worst defensemen on the team. After last night’s debacle, his pairings in practice featured Girardi with McDonagh and Klein on the second pairing with Holden. Despite constantly showing that he can’t handle top pairing minutes or playing against the best forwards, Girardi is back on the top pair. All of the stats prove that he’s ineffective, and so does the eye test. Same with Klein. Yet Vigneault refuses to make any changes.

The reason why Vigneault was fired in Vancouver was because he couldn’t adapt to his players and adjust based on their shortcomings. It’s the same way here, and it’s killing the Rangers on a nightly basis. Last night featured so many breakdowns and shortcomings that it looked as if the team was never prepared by the coach, and there were no changes. That’s been the case for the whole season; incomplete games from the players and the teams, and scrambling all over the ice. If Vigneault continues to show an inability to make adjustments and changes that the team needs, and supply some much needed structure, then maybe it’s time for Jeff Gorton to step in and do something.

5. Henrik Lundqvist is having a disastrous season. Last night was not totally on him, but there were some issues and misplays. He’s in a serious funk and needs to work out of it. He’s down to a .902 save percentage with a 2.89 GAA and there has been an increase in the “bad goals” and other issues with him. However, to put all of the blame on Lundqvist, or on the defense, is foolish. They both share a blame in the team’s shortcomings. In my opinion, the defense is the bigger issue here and has been for quite some time. Lundqvist will not be able to really improve unless the defense changes and starts doing their job. But it’s not time to bench Lundqvist either. He needs to work out of this and will get a chance to do so with Antti Raanta injured.

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6. The line of Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad and Rick Nash was monstrous yesterday, especially Zibanejad and Buchnevich. Buch has five points (1-4-5) in three games since he’s returned and has a seven game points streak (5-6-11) going. He’s already a top-six forward and will be a fantastic NHL player. Mika Zibanejad scored twice and looked like he didn’t miss a beat. Having him on the second line gives the Rangers three great centers with Stepan and Hayes, and gives the team a lot of depth. Like I said, the forwards aren’t the problem.

7. The way this team is currently structured, the Rangers will falter in the first round of the playoffs again. The defense is a disaster and Lundqvist hasn’t been able to bail them out or perform up to his standards. Jeff Gorton must get a top four, puck moving defenseman to play with Ryan McDonagh or else this team will fail. However, the team got Keith Yandle two years ago and Alain Vigneault did not utilize him correctly and wasted his potential for a year and a half. So even if Gorton does get someone really good, it’s all up to Alain Vigneault, and that doesn’t make me very confident. Despite the incredible offense, this team will probably lose in the first round.

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Posted on January 18, 2017, in Game Recaps, In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. It’s so frustrating to see they finally have a good core of players on offense and have talent on all four lines that is capable of scoring goals and yet we have a defense that looks so bad at times that a good AHL team would expose and score at will on. It was only a few years ago we had such a good defense and one of the best if not the best goalies in the league. I don’t get it though. How could AV be this stubborn to continue to play Girardi n Klein the way he does. He’s been coaching and winning a lot of games for a long time. I would think he would recognize the situation and try to fix it at least. I’ve always backed AV but he is starting to worry me with this defense situation. It would really be a shame if we can’t get a good D to go with this offense we have cause I think they’re good enough to win a cup also.

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