Elton John doesn't have much on the Rangers, as the aftermath of moving franchise center McDavid has the Blueshirts singing the blues.
The New York Rangers stunned the hockey world by trading their best player in Connor McDavid. The rationale was clear to see: get 3 premium players in Mark Scheifele, Jonathan Hubredeau, and Timo Meier, plus two high-end young players in Noah Dobson and Vitali Kravtsov in return.
That trade had to be made. It was for the good of the franchise.
But the results since the trade leave a lot to be desired and GM Sean McAndrews could be on the hot seat if the team doesn’t turn things around.
While he certainly consulted with ownership before making the deal, if heads have to roll it will be McAndrews on the chopping block. Let’s have a look at what’s gone wrong for the Rangers since the deal.
The Rangers have lost 6 straight games (including 2 loser points). In those six games they have been outscored 26 to 15. They’ve lost close games including a 7-6 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights but they have also lost 2-1, again to the Vegas Golden Knights. They have been blown out a couple times of course too.
The new players have played well averaging well over a point per game. So what gives?
The real oddity is the defense has gotten significantly worse which is perplexing. Before when the Rangers lost it was generally because of goaltending (more on that later), but now the Rangers are consistently getting outshot. It’s a little confusing as the top four has remained intact and is, on paper, one of the better units in the league with Drew Doughty, Mikhail Sergachev, Jacob Chychrun, and Filip Hronek.
Perhaps the group started paying attention to social media criticism about their lack of production as a group. But with the firepower the Rangers have upfront, the unit should pay attention to their own end first.
Mike Babcock will surely correct that in the near term if the team is to right the ship.
Turning back to the goaltending. Goaltending has been the Achilles heel of the Rangers all season. While it may be true they have been getting outshot recently, more is expected of Sergei Varlamov.
Varlamov is one of the better rated goalies in the league and no one can doubt his skill but he currently sits with a 0.903 SV% and a 3.09 GAA. That’s good for 22nd overall in both categories if you are wondering.
With Varlamov struggling, why haven’t the Rangers turned to veteran backup Jonathan Bernier more often? He’s good for an 0.886 SV% and a 3.66 GAA.
The Rangers can do two things here: make a move to bring in a different goaltender, or hope there is some regression to the mean. With all of the changes in the roster lately they will likely hope their tenders find there game and go on a bit of a hot streak. But if they continue to drop points, there could be a move.
While there is certainly some doom and gloom in the room, there is some room for optimism. Despite dropping six straight, the team is only two points out of a playoff spot. A modest hot streak would seem them back in the playoff picture.
Also the team has had a bit of bad puck luck. Chris Kreider’s shooting percentage has plummeted to 5.49%, Meier has had a 4.35% shooting percentage since joining the team, and the defensive unit can’t buy a goal with collecting shooting percentages under 3%. If a few of these bar-and-outs turn into bar-and-ins the fortunes of the team could improve.
Also of note, some of the young players have really stepped up their games. Philip Broberg stepped in for Noah Dobson, who was injured after only four games with the Rangers. Broberg looked like a confident NHLer in somewhat limited minutes and was a plus player over the recent losing streak and notched his first NHL assist.
Alexander Holtz has also looked the part getting his first goal and assist in a brief seven game cameo.
Sticking with the young players, the Hartford Wolf Pack’s results have improved of late. Mavrik Bourque and Alexander True continue to lead the way in scoring but the aforementioned Holtz and Dawson Mercer’s play has improved significantly of late. Newcomers Kravtsov and Kristian Vesalainen have settled onto the second line together and are starting to develop some chemistry.
On the back end, Tobias Bjornfot has looked fantastic recently leading the blueline in scoring while Broberg has oddly played better in the pros than in the AHL.
What has really improved has been the, you guessed it, goaltending. Connor Ingram’s save percentage is creeeeeeeeeping closer to .900, which will allow the team to at least compete on a nightly basis.
Some other roster notes:
Look for Danny DeKeyser to plug into the lineup on the bottom pairing, likely with Adam Boqvist as Dobson may get some AHL conditioning time after his recent injury.
There could be a bit of juggling with the middle six to spark some scoring there as it has only really been Nico Hischer who has produced consistently. Look for Duclair to jump up to the second line while Drouin will get a spin on the 3rd line with Filip Zadina and Andrew Cogliano. Everyone has been ice cold so a bit of a blender might not hurt.
Speaking of Cogliano, he’s been getting a good run at center on the third line since Anisimov was shipped out. The results haven’t been great and there is a rumor that the Rangers are looking for a third line center. Cogliano’s best use is as a speedy winger that can play on the PK and chip in offensively. The added defensive responsibility at the center position might be too much for him.
Well, with that lengthy article, here is hoping the Rangers can play a little better, get a little more luck, and right the ship.