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Rangers Vs. Hurricanes: Where’s The D?

NHL: New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
  • When I complain about poor lineup decisions or defensive pairings from Alain Vigneault I’m often met with things like “well the Rangers are winning games so it doesn’t matter.” Friday afternoon my complaints about the defensive pairs was met with “the Rangers are 5-2 so you’re not smarter than AV, idiot.” Friday night is a great example of why it’s an issue that needs to be addressed regardless of the team’s record. The Rangers defense cost them the game Friday, and without the D to O transition (and failings by the offense in general) there was no coming back from Jeff Skinner’s late goal in the second.
  • Let’s get the negatives out of the way. In terms of possession Dan Girardi (62% corsi for) and Nick Holden (50%) were solid. But both were responsible for some enormous issues. With a minute and half left and down a goal Vigneault had both out there. They promptly got pinned in their own zone for 45 seconds. Here’s the two of them providing a perfect screen for Skinner on the game-winning goal.
  • Holden had an atrocious game. If Adam Clendening even came close to having that type of game he’d be sitting Sunday. Will Holden sit Sunday? Probably not.
  • Kevin Klein had a horrible game, too. He was directly responsible for the first two goals from Skinner (although to a lesser extent on the second goal). If Vigneault is going to use him in the top four -- hell I advocated for him to be on the top pairing — then he needs to get his act together.
  • The Rangers, once again, had no defense to offense transition. That’s been a problem most of the year, but the offense has picked up the slack. In the games where that hasn’t happened, the Rangers have struggled. In the third period the Rangers mustered seven shots on net. For a team with such an explosive offense, that’s unacceptable.
  • None of this should totally remove the offense from the equation. For the first time this year the Rangers were simply outworked on offense. And even so the Rangers still had a slew of chances to tie the game.
  • Sort of a forgettable night for Brandon Pirri and Michael Grabner. Throw Oscar Lindberg in that category too.
  • Positives? Pavel Buchnevich came back and was dominant. He did so much work to free up the puck on the opening goal that he should have gotten two assists for it. Every time he’s on the ice something good happens.
  • Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Mika Zibanejad were also great in all three zones. Having Buchnevich’s defensive/neutral zone abilities really steadied out whatever line he was on, as well.
  • Jimmy Vesey has been far more legit far sooner than expected. The kid is incredible with the puck on his stick.
  • Vigneault finally gave Brady Skjei a shot on the power play when Ryan McDonagh (who was a beast) needed to rest. Keeping Holden off the point paid off, too, when the Rangers scored on the power play with Skjei there.
  • A good example of why the D to O transition is so important? The second Zuccarello goal where McDonagh hit him with the home run pass for the breakaway. The Rangers’ offense would be truly lethal if they had more of those opportunities, but right now McDonagh is the only one who can be relied on for that.
  • The Rangers have another tough test against Tampa Bay Sunday. And just like that a 5-2 start can turn into a 5-4 start. And you wonder why I complain about poor defensive choices ...