Rangers vs. Penguins: It Is Time For A Change

The Rangers were thoroughly embarrassed on Saturday. It got even worse on Sunday. Something has to change.

I think it is fair to say that Sunday’s game doesn’t need to be looked at using GIFs. There were not many positives outside of Henrik Lundqvist standing on his head. The first goal was scored by Michael Grabner, his 19th of the season, on a breakaway that he sparked with a solid defensive play.

The second goal was scored by Brendan Smith, who was fresh off a healthy scratch, assisted by Vinni Lettieri and Paul Carey. But based on everything else that happened, none of that matters. Heck, it isn’t even worth kvetching over Pavel Buchnevich receiving 10:08 at 5v5, and 3:59 in a third period in which the Rangers needed a goal.

The 2017-18 New York Rangers have reached a boiling point and something has to give. That something can be the firing of Alain Vigneault, a trade to indicate the start of a selloff or quite honestly, both – and this isn’t being said to be dramatic or impulsive.

Vigneault’s job was reportedly on the line based on the result of a Halloween game vs. the Vegas Golden Knights, so it isn’t out of reason to say he should be feeling the heat given the way the team has played as of late.

This is being said because there was a whole lot of talk following Saturday’s game, and Sunday was followed up with no action.

Mathew Barzal and the New York Islanders straight up dunked on the Rangers during a 7-2 victory on Saturday. When all was said and done, the Islanders fired 37 shots on net. It was the 14th consecutive game in which the Rangers surrendered at least 30 shots against.

Fast forward to Sunday night; the second period to be specific.

There is still time on the clock, but things were so bad that Lundqvist had already faced 30 shots. The third period wasn’t any better and he ended the night having stopped 42 of 46 shots that came his way. Kevin Hayes missed the game with a contusion, and Ryan McDonagh was out with back spasms, but their presence wouldn’t have made much of a difference. The issues plaguing the team are systemic, and a reboot of sorts is long past due.

So, the Rangers haven’t won in regulation in the last 10 games. They have now gone 15 games in a row having surrendered at least 30 shots. I decided to go back and look at when the streak started, and it actually makes things look even worse.

In the nineteen games above, the Rangers have allowed 30 or more shots 18 times. They have allowed 40 shots or more six times. On average, that’s 37 shots against per game.

The full season look is equally bad.

This is very bad and there is no sign of it stopping anytime soon because the Rangers don’t have a plan. Actually, they might have one, a very bad one at that.

If the Rangers do in fact have a plan, it is fair to say that general manager Jeff Gorton is doing a helluva job keeping it under wraps. The Rangers are subject to this criticism because this is a year they entered after starting a rebuild on the fly.

Derek Stepan was jettisoned to the Arizona Coyotes along with Antti Raanta, and there are currently no representatives of the pieces in the deal in the NHL. Anthony DeAngelo was the only “NHL” piece of the trade, but he’s appeared in just eight NHL games this year averaging 12:38 a game. The remainder of his time, 28 games to be exact, has been spent in Hartford while Steven Kampfer has remained on the roster.

Defense has not really been the focal point of DeAngelo’s game to date, offense was his selling point, but how the organization has used him is interesting to say the least. Right now he appears to be an afterthought.

Lias Andersson, the other piece of the Stepan/Raanta trade, could be a helluva player, but doesn’t fit the bill of what the Rangers are currently trying to do as an organization.

Gorton also added Kevin Shattenkirk and re-signed Brendan Smith; both moves very much signaled the team’s intent on being a contender.

But if you look at both series of moves side by side, they tell a story of two different teams.

That is why at this point, the Rangers need to be real about what team they are, and Gorton has to decide what he’s going to do about it; there is no more room for half-measures or silence. If the Rangers act decisively, there is still time to get things on track from an organizational standpoint.

There are opportunities to move players who don’t factor into the team’s 2018-19 plans and acquire assets that either stock the cupboard up, or give some flexibility toward building a contender for next season.

I say this because as long as Lundqvist is around there won’t be a complete tear down to the studs. If the Rangers are not going to make noise this year, there isn’t a downside to starting the search for a coach who fits the long term direction of the team. If the team wants to contend next year, it is going to take time to identify what players are needed for said coach.

As bad as things look, there are players here who are under team control or contract next year you can use as a template to build upon; players like Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey. These are youthful players who can occupy important roles. Then there are veterans like Lundqvist, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh, Shattenkirk and Smith.

Outside of that, I don’t want to get ahead of myself by pointing to players like Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson etc. who may make the roster, or look at current bottom-six options like Jesper Fast Carey, Boo Nieves or Lettieri who could return. It is more important to fill the core positions, and I am confident the team has enough surplus in terms of ironing out the bottom six.

Something has to give. The sooner it does, the sooner the Rangers can actually get serious about who they are. What AV is likely banking on is Lundqvist making another historic run down the stretch, but honestly what good would that do for the situation? Enough has gone on to show this is a repeat problem, and there’s no point in delaying the inevitable.