The Rangers still aren't good in 5v5 scenarios

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

While the Rangers have played better of late, the team is still struggling to score at even strength.

The Alain Vigneault project is more than halfway through year one. The Rangers are two games over .500, a point out of a playoff spot, and, by the team's own admission, not performing up to snuff. When the start of the season didn't go well, through injuries, through a tough road trip, and through inconsistent play, one topic of conversation was how the group was adapting to Vigneault's coaching style. It was a marked change from a defense-first, low-octane unit to an uptempo style that was supposed to produce more goals.

The Rangers scoring has, once again, been an issue for the team, at least in some areas. The Rangers clock in at 27th in the NHL in 5v5 scoring, and are dangerously close to falling even further, with only one more even-strength goal than the Canadiens and the Flames. It's been the power play that has been a saving grace, as the team has been sixth-best in the league at 21 percent.

What does this all mean? The Rangers are still struggling to execute in Vigneault's system.

Power plays are isolated instances. It's also an area that assistant coach Scott Arniel is charged with, and he has done a good job fixing. But the Rangers are still a below average team even strength, and that points to the team's inability to produce in this new scheme.

Vigneault has asked defenseman to be more active up ice, and has in general preached going quickly from defense to offense. It has at times left Rangers goalies hanging out to dry, and the Rangers just haven't been good in transition. The team struggles to make crisp passes through neutral ice, enter the other team's zone, and do many things that are paramount to a strong transition game.

By no means is it time to abandon ship, but if the Rangers are really going to completely turn things around, 5v5 scoring, and doing it effectively in Vigneault's system, really need to improve.

- The Rangers begin a four-game homestand Friday night, with three of those opponents being Eastern Conference teams (Flyers, Lightning, Red Wings) that are in or fighting for a playoff spot. If the team really is turning a corner, this homestand is as good a time as any to rack up some points.

- Carl Hagelin is quietly putting together a very solid stretch of hockey, with six goals in his last 12 games, including his team-high fourth game-winning goal. Getting the Olympic call will surely also help to boost his confidence.

- No Rangers were selected to the AHL All-Star Game, which shouldn't come as so much of a surprise, as Cam Talbot, Chris Kreider, and J.T. Miller (all now in the NHL) probably had the Wolfpack's best shots.

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