Fri 4 Mar 2011
In light of the New York Rangers losing all three games on their current homestand, and factoring in their 4-10-1 record in their last 15 games, do you think President/GM Glen Sather would like to take a mulligan on the 2011 NHL trade deadline?
Prior to the end of 2010, the Rangers were playing just well enough to win games, or at least earn points in their losses. The same cannot be said for the past couple of months.
Larry Brooks of the NY Post listed the ugly numbers for the Rangers of late:
• 14-16-3 at MSG
• 3-8-1 at home in their last 12 games
• 4 straight losses at the Garden
• 11-15-2 record in 2011
Despite the horror show that are those numbers, and despite the facts the Rangers have slipped to eighth in the Eastern Conference and no longer control their own playoff destiny, Sather was absolutely correct in standing pat at the trade deadline. While he did make a minor deal in acquiring forward John Mitchell from Toronto for a 2012 seventh round draft pick, Sather wisely resisted giving away the future.
While Ranger fans dreamed of acquiring Brad Richards, the bounty needed to acquire the UFA-to-be would have proved to be a nightmare and run counter to what the Blueshirts have been trying to do – build a young core from within.
Various reports stated that Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk was not going to move Richards unless the price was right – and if these reports are true – the price would not have been right for the Rangers.
According to Darren Dreger of TSN, the Stars GM was looking for a can’t-miss deal. Dreger wrote, “By can’t miss, sources say the Nieuwendyk asked the Rangers for multiple components. One scenario included 24-year-old forward Brandon Dubinsky – whose 19 goals is one shy of equalling a career high. Almost every member of New York’s young core was believed to have been requested in some way, shape, or form – along with a collection of other assets required to land Richards.”
This report followed along the lines an article Brooks wrote for the Post that said the Stars were asking for Derek Stepan, Dubinsky and Marc Staal in a deal.
If the Rangers were a true Stanley Cup contender then going all in would make some sense – much like it did in 1994 when Neil Smith gambled and won. However, given that the Rangers are in a dogfight just to make the playoffs, there is no justification for making such a deal – especially when Richards will be available as an UFA come July 1.
While the Rangers have been freefalling in the standings, the one positive point that can be made is that the team has been competitive. Since January 1, five of the Rangers 15 regulation losses can by more than one goal and two of those games featured an empty net goal. So in 11 of those losses, one or two goals would have made the difference in the Rangers getting one or two points instead of no points.
Instead of playing well enough to win (or earn points), the Rangers are now playing well enough to lose in regulation – and thus not earn any points.
Quite obviously, if the Rangers are going to reverse this trend they are going to have to address their biggest problem – scoring goals.
The “easiest” way to improve their scoring output is to revive their moribund power play. While acquiring Bryan McCabe was a good first step in this revival, nothing is going to happen until there is a change in Coach John Tortorella’s philosophy or unless the players change their ways.
The most striking problem with the Rangers power play is its inability/lack of willingness to station a player in front of the net. Far too often all five players are far too willing to play on the perimeter – thus making it easier for their opponent to kill the penalty. Even when they do venture near the crease, too many times players are stationed to the side of the goalie – as opposed to standing in front of him.
It is no coincidence that Ranger fans lament all of the goals against that have been deflected by Henrik Lundqvist or have bounced in off Blueshirt defenders – especially when you consider the Rangers inability to score these types of goals. As Branch Rickey once said, “Luck is the residue of design.” In other words, you ain’t going to score those types of goals if you ain’t willing to pay the price in front of the net.
In concert with getting traffic in front of the net is the team’s need to shoot the puck. Part of the Rangers play on the perimeter is their need to set up the perfect shot. While the crowd does get too restless too quickly, they do have a point – the Rangers need to shoot the puck (on goal, of course) more on the power play. Heck, it doesn’t even need to be on net sometimes. They could make good use of bounces off the end boards – like Derek Stepan did at Washington for his power play goal.
While, this strategy also carries over very well to even strength play as well, the most important thing is for the Rangers to just relax and get back to basics. Granted, this is easier said than done. You can see and feel the Rangers gripping their sticks tightly and over-thinking in offensive situations. Two prime examples came in the 3-1 loss to the Wild.
Ryan Callahan had Jose Theodore down and out as the Rangers were primed to take a two-goal lead. However, rather than elevate the puck and bury the biscuit in the basket, Callahan simply slid the puck along the ice allowing the Minnesota netminder to make the save.
The second situation came right before Kyle Brodziak tied the game with his power play goal. The Rangers broke out on a two-on-one with Brandon Dubinsky, on his off wing, driving into the Wild zone. Rather than go to the net and take the shot, Dubinsky was looking to pass to Callahan. As a result, Dubinsky ended up shanking his late shot wide of the net.
In either case, the Rangers would have had a two-goal lead and the shape of the game would have changed.
While the season is not lost (yet), they have lost any room for error. With Buffalo just two points behind and having three games in hand, the Rangers have lost control of their own playoff destiny.
Following the game Tortorella said, “We are going to keep our heads up, we are going to stay together and we are going to find our way.”
The only problem is that the better starts finding their way tonight in Ottawa or it might just be too late as far as the 2010-2011 season is concerned.
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