Rangers Analysis: Why You Shouldn't Be Panicking Over The Loss To The Islanders

In my recap of the New York Rangers 6-4 loss to the New York Islanders I said the following: 

Well, with a new season comes new disappointments, and today's matinee against the Islanders will be the first to go into that category this season.

What also comes with a new season is the immediate bashing of the panic button when the ship takes the slightest turn in the wrong direction. OK, the loss to the Islanders was a deflating one, especially after how great the Rangers played in a 6-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres; but you have to remember that it's just one game. 

So let me help those of you who are at the cliff staring into the abyss take a few steps back. 

First of all let's start with Michael Del Zotto. The Rangers 20-year-old sophomore defenseman is catching a lot of flack for his egregious giveaway that lead to the first Islanders goal, and his partial blame for the second Islanders goal as well. Trading, benching or sending him down is not the answer to the problem. Something that has to be taken into consideration when dealing with Del Zotto is the fact that he is still so young. 

Yes, he has a year of NHL experience under hie belt, but that doesn't mean that he should already have blossomed into the NHL player that he will eventually be. He will still be raw for at least a year, maybe even two, and him being raw means that his defense will be raw. It should improve over time, and I know that it will, but the growing pains that we knew and saw last year will still be there this year; just hopefully at a lower rate as the year goes on. 

The kid is a special talent, at 20 he is running the Rangers power play and completely controlling play in the offensive zone. His passes are crisp and on the tape, and he always knows where the open man is on the ice. Plus he is shooting more, which resulted in a goal against the Islanders. This is the kind of offensive defenseman that teams dream of having, and even if he is never brilliant in his own zone one can deal with it when he runs the offense as effectivley as he does. 

Anyway enough about Del Zotto. Join me after the jump for more reasons why not to panic. 

The other thing that needs to be taken into consideration in the secondary scoring thus far. Again, let me reiterate, that it's only been one game but the signs that we have seen from the Rangers have been positive. The Rangers have scored ten goals this year and Alex Frolov and Marian Gaborik have scored none of them. To further that point Gaborik and Frolov have only assisted on two of those ten goals. Guys like Brandon Dubinsky (three goals and one assist), Derek Stepan (three goals), Artem Anisimov (a goal and two assists), Del Zotto (a goal and an assist) and Dan Girardi (a goal and two assists) have been stepping up like crazy. Those are the guys that the Rangers need to step up in order to be successful this year. Well, maybe barring Girardi; and there is no need to get the expectations too high on Stepan this early. 

Then there is the power play to look into. The Rangers have been highly effective on the power play thus far, converting 28.6% of their opportunities thus far. Remember that this is only a two game sample size, but also realize that the power play is that successful without Gaborik or Frolov on their games. Two goals have come from the point -- both against the Islanders, one from Del Zotto and one from Girardi -- and another came as a direct result from a shot from the point. 

More importantly, the power play is actually moving the puck with the intent to create shots. When the point is being clogged -- something that other teams did often last year to quell the power play -- one of the players manning the point moves his way to the side-boards and runs the play from there. This creates space at the side-boards, and for the guy manning the point. 

To prove my point, watch this video of Dubinsky's goal on the power play against the Islanders. 

When the video starts the Rangers point-men (Del Zotto and Michal Rozsival in this case) are already starting the cycle, with Del Zotto moving to the right side-boards. Notice how the move allows Del Zotto to have space to accept the pass, and by the time the high defenseman starts to cover him, Del Zotto is able to rip a pass to the open Dubinsky who scores. 

That's an example of how the power play is creating room away from the point, but watch this video to see how the same move creates space for a shot from the point. 


Now on this play, notice how the cycle gives the point-man (in this case Del Zotto) room to shoot. Notice how when the player on the side boards, Dubinsky, feeds the puck to an open Del Zotto at the point, neither of the two defenseman pressure him. That's mainly because if they did they would leave Rozsival or Dubinsky (who are both manning the side-boards) wide open. So the two defenseman fall back to cover the high-slot, allowing Del Zotto to shoot from the point. This is not only good because shots are coming from the point, but it's good because the Islanders and the Rangers are screening the goaltender; it also allows more chances for deflections and rebounds in front of the net. 

These are all very positive signs from a team that's best two offensive players haven't gotten kicking yet. It's also two games. The main point that I want to show you with these two videos is that the Rangers are starting to look more in control in the offensive zone, and more effective as well. This is the type of play that makes me believe that the Rangers five goals a game average that they are currently on isn't a fluke. Of course I don't expect them to keep up that type of a blistering pace, but with play like that their scoring problems might be behind them. 

The other thing to keep you positive is that Gaborik and Frolov haven't gotten going yet. Can you imagine what this team will look like when Gaborik and Frolov are hitting the back of the net day in and day out? It would make the power play more lethal, it would make the Rangers more dangerous five-on-five and it would give even more space to guys like Dubinsky, Callahan, Anisimov, Stepan and others. 

OK guys, that's why I backed off the cliff. I hope you all can do the same.

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