Rangers Vs. Senators: Nothing Doing
- The glow has really left this team, hasn't it? Maybe it's more of a feeling than reality, but the team that came out in October is not the team that's been around since the Canada trip -- which is a problem. This team has reverted to last year's lack of possession, bad defense and desperately relying on goaltending when they are winning games. The bigger issue? They’re doing it consistently.
Here is a list of teams who have been worse than NYR in shot attempts since November 1st.— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) November 28, 2016
New York Islanders
- The "but they're winning so who cares" crew was out in full force after the Rangers matinee win over the Flyer Friday. Sunday is a good example of why the mentality of how a team is winning is important. The Rangers lucking themselves into wins isn't exactly ideal, and while every team loses when they get shut out, the Rangers haven't won a single game when they haven't scored three goals or more this year.
- Last night was another fine example of Alain Vigneault shooting himself in the foot by having Adam Clendening sitting in the press box. Kevin Klein has gone full Girardi this year, and real Dan Girardi is there with him. In a game where the other team is sitting in a 1-3-1 and clogging the neutral zone you either need to break the trap by dumping and getting (wasn't working) or sending all your forwards through with long passes so you have a prayer of getting the puck in the offensive zone. Clendening can move the puck like that. Ryan McDonagh can move the puck like that. Brady Skjei can sometimes, but at least he can put the puck on his stick and do the dirty transition work himself. The rest of the defense doesn't have a chance. But make sure he doesn't play or get comfortable because of tenure, the hockey community, trusted veterans or whatever other excuse the media comes up with.
- Vigneault's shown a pretty annoying inability to adjust as the game goes on, too. This happened a lot the past two years (I still have nightmares about AV intentionally matching up Girardi with the triplets in the ECF) and has occurred a few times this year. The Rangers dumped and chased in the first period with a sprinkling of those drop passes in the neutral zone. Ottawa stifled all of it. Second period? Same thing. Third period? You know how this ends.
- Don't give me the "you can only break the trap by dumping and chasing" either because it's a load of crap. If you start getting the puck behind that three-man line consistently the defending team is going to instinctively break the line to try and compensate. The Rangers tried to do all their work in front of the line and paid for it.
- Jesper Fast is a quality two-way player who can add offense in pockets. That's the nicest way to describe him. Vigneault seems convinced, however, he's a top-six player. Sunday he was a top-line player. I get that it's silly to complain about something like this with all the talent the Rangers have at forward, but it's exactly that talent that makes it executable. Especially when Jimmy Vesey finds himself on the "fourth line" because of it.
- Sadly the Rangers did get unlucky, too. A clearing attempt hits the official, stays in the zone and Ottawa scores to give themselves a 2-0 lead. Not that the Rangers deserved anything from that game, but with Ottawa in full metal shell mode the final frame of the third the Rangers had a slew of opportunities to tie the game. And if the Senators didn't have that insurance goal they might have been even more panicked.
- Rick Nash, J.T. Miller, Brandon Pirri, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello were the players I noticed the most in the offensive zone. Although having said that, Hayes was the bottom in possession and Pirri wasn’t too far ahead of him.
- Even so, Hayes and Zuccarello were victims of trying to be too fancy when a simple shot on net works well enough. Two of the Rangers beat third period opportunities came from innocent shots at the net from Girardi. I will forgive Hayes semi-breakaway turned wraparound (if not for a spectacular defensive play that puck is in) but shooting on net is better than an impossible pass attempt. Paging you, Mr. Zuccarello.
- As for Pirri, here's a compliment sandwich. Compliment: The Rangers need to use him in the Mika Zibanejad role on the power play. Throw him in the face off circle and feed him passes to smash at the net. Criticism: He has to hit the net more. Simply has to.
- The power play looks amazing when it has worked -- and the team really misses Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich here -- but teams watched their three minutes of film and are shutting off that drop pass to a guy with speed move. Apparently that move was critical to the integrity of the power play since the Rangers haven't created anything when that move is shut down. This goes back to the whole lack of adjustments thing but ...
- Yes, the Rangers missing Zibanejad and Buchnevich hurt, but it doesn’t make an enormous impact on the overall defensive issues. When the Rangers offense isn’t dominating they’re running into problems when they rely on their defense.