The Rangers lost to the Islanders by a score of 5-3 on Friday and have pretty much hit rock bottom. The loss was the Blueshirts’ six in their last seven games, with their only win during that time via shootout. The Islanders win was just their second regulation win their past 19 games. There are hardly any positive things to say about the Rangers’ effort both last night and over the past couple of weeks. The team’s nine-game homestand was supposed to be their chance to finally get over the .500 mark, but with a 1-4-2 record through the first seven contests, it has had the opposite effect.
So, what exactly has gone wrong? Well, the list is a long one. Let’s take a look at it.
Henrik Lundqvist has simply been average, if not slightly below average. While it certainly does not start with him, the Rangers have not let up less than three goals in any of their last seven home games, all of which Lundqvist has started. He has a 2.77 GAA and a .905 save percentage on the year. Those types of numbers are unheard of when it comes to Lundqvist. I am still not overly concerned about Hank, but if he does not return to world-class form, the Rangers are going nowhere.
Rick Nash has been invisible out there. He has just six goals on the year and has not wreaked havoc on defenses like he has in the past. He has certainly not played like a superstar and has not lived up to his $7.8 million contract. Sure, we see highlight-reel goals like his goal in Dallas from him every once in a while, but they have become few and far between.
The defense has looked terrible. Besides McDonagh, who is a stud, who else is doing a good job out there? It seems Del Zotto has somehow gotten weaker both physically and mentally each year he has been in the league. Girardi is not nearly the player he was the past few years. His lazy giveaway on Wednesday night against the Penguins handed their top line a goal. His puck handling has never been his strong point, but it is really apparent this year. Stralman and Falk are simply not good defenders. It is nice to see that Falk is willing to get into opponents’ faces, but he is a slow, clumsy skater. John Moore is a good skater and has some offensive ability, as seen in his end-to-end rush that led to the Rangers second goal vs. Pittsburgh on Wednesday, but his defensive game has holes in it. Again, while Marc Staal was not off to a great start, his presence is sorely missed.
Stepan has been nothing special. While he was probably all but a lock to make Team USA for the Olympics before the season, his inconsistent play this year has his spot up in the air. He scored last night, which is nice, but as our supposedly first-line center, I would like to see way more production from him.
The one player that has overachieved, as of late, is Zuccarello. He should be on the first power play unit, as he is the only player who can carry the puck into the offensive zone somewhat comfortably. His creativity and passing ability has been one of the few things that has been consistent for the Rangers this year. Just look at the Rangers second and third goals against the Penguins. Zuccarello followed up on the play to tie the game at two, and then gained the zone creatively to set up the third and tying goal.
The Rangers are running out of time to figure this all out. The team is sitting at 16-18-2, good for 34 points, which is seventh worst in the league. At the same time, they are only two points back of Philadelphia for third in the Metropolitan Division. But if the free-fall continues, it will be time for a roster makeover next summer.