So I've missed the past two New York Rangers games. I actually got engaged on Friday, went to Mohegan Sun on Saturday (didn't win any money) and had to go to a party on Sunday. In a lot of ways I feel pretty lucky that I didn't have to watch the Rangers' recent brand of hockey the past 48 hours.
It's been a really frustrating season in a lot of ways. The Rangers have mixed in depressing losses with confidence-boosting wins all year, to the tune of a 15-15-1 record. In the past two nights the Rangers have kicked off a nine-game homestand; losing both games.
Maybe it's so frustrating because we've seen the Rangers play well enough to give us confidence this year. Maybe it's so frustrating because of the way the Rangers are losing these games. Some of the frustration almost certainly has to do with the teams (and the goalies) the Rangers are losing to.
Mostly, this team is frustrating because they don't have a real identity. The Rangers don't suck, but they're also not very good. They're basically treading water; winning a game or two here before losing a game or two there. It also makes a solution very difficult to find. The Rangers have skill in their lineup, they have the players who should be able to help turn things around, but in stretches those players disappear.
Some of this has to do with puck luck, too. The Rangers are currently 25th in the NHL with 2.27 goals a game (last year the Rangers scored 2.62 goals a game) but are averaging 30.8 shots a game against last year's 30.9 shots. And while that doesn't tell the whole story (an accurate measurement of scoring chances would help), the rough sketch there shows the Rangers aren't exactly losing offensive opportunities, they're just not burying them.
Some of this, of course, has to do with Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan both missing a good chunk of the season early on. But much, much more of it has to do with the fact that guys like Derick Brassard, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan have been off and on all year. Brad Richards has been much better than anyone expected, and he's helped carry the offense a little, but he's really been the only consistent forward all year. Mats Zuccarello has been much better the past moth or so and Chris Kreider has been great since he was called up, but it hasn't been enough.
The biggest offensive bright spot might actually be Ryan McDonagh who has six goals and 13 assists for 19 points in 31 games. Richards, however, leads the team with nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points. Zuccarello (who some fans -- not on here -- actually told me they didn't want back) is tied with Stepan for second on the team in scoring with 20 points. Kreider has 17 points in 24 games, which is a .70 ppg pace, compared to Richards' .74 ppg pace.
So what's the solution? More skill? Brassard has 13 points in 31 games. Pouliot has six points in 30 games. Nash has just five goals and 10 points in 14 games. John Moore? Five points. Michael Del Zotto? Six points.
I think it's clear the Rangers need a wake up call. After the loss to the Capitals the team had a players only meeting, although Alain Vigneault called that "just talk" and mentioned how the team needs to act on those thoughts. He also talked about the roster the Rangers "have at this time."
That might be telling. Or it might not.
You never do know with this team.