So a 10th regulation loss of the season for the Rangers, which is not all that bad considering that the club has played 26 games. But it most assuredly is bad that the 4-1 defeat to Vegas at the Garden on Monday night represented the eighth time the club has lost by three goals or more.
Because while it is a rule in professional sports that all teams must be considered resilient — Hey, how about that 6-5 victory in Montreal on Nov. 23 after falling behind 4-0? —the fact is that the Blueshirts have folded under adversity too many times, young team or not.
“Outside of that one game in Montreal, I think we’ve had trouble all year with our resiliency, determination, stick-to-it-iveness and keeping to our system,” Chris Kreider said after the Golden Knights scored twice within 2:16 early in the first period and then twice within 1:36 early in the second to build a 4-0 lead. “When we get down, it seems like we want to win the game on every single play rather than crawling our way back in, instead of making the simple play in front of us.
“It’s something we’ve got to buy into. Teams are going to get an early goal. You’re not going to lead every game. Obviously we need a better start, but when something like that happens, you have to rely on your structure to get you back in the game. We got away from playing the right way.”
Henrik Lundqvist, who surprisingly got the start, his seventh in the last nine games even though Alexandar Georgiev was coming off Saturday’s 4-0 shutout of the Devils, was pedestrian. That made him one of the crowd on this night that the Rangers’ five-game points streak (4-0-1) was snipped, the King stopping 28 of 32 in the sixth of his 16 starts he has recorded a save percentage of under .880.
The defense was passive-aggressive, its passiveness coming all too often in the defensive and neutral zones with the Blueshirts as customary ceding their line on rushes. The D-corps was aggressive in the other end but generated little.
“It’s a mindset, it’s something we’ve got to completely buy into, that night-in and night-out we’ve got to be way more committed to playing the right way and playing defense,” said David Quinn. “I didn’t think our D-corps was really all in from a defending standpoint. I thought we were way too offensive-driven.”
The Rangers are a talent-driven team with not quite enough top-end talent to compete on a consistent basis with the big boys. Problem is, when their skill game is shut down or on a holiday — was tough to determine which was which in this contest in which the Golden Knights were never seriously threatened —the Rangers’ lineup is not diversified enough to win a different way.
Which is something general manager Jeff Gorton must consider as he reviews his options. If, as seems likely, the Rangers do move pending free-agent Kreider and effectively replace the winger in the top-six rotation with the more finesse-oriented Vitali Kravtsov, the team will become even more homogenized.
Under that scenario, perhaps moving Pavel Buchnevich for a north-south winger might make sense to investigate. Someone like Columbus’ Josh Anderson, who has struggled this year, might make sense. The idea is not to toss away or scapegoat Buchnevich, invisible in this one, but to use him in order to diversify the approach and the attack.
All that talent should make for an irrepressible power play, but the fact is that the Rangers, 0-for-5 worth 9:02 in this one, are 5-for-41 with the man-advantage over the last 11 matches and have seemed utterly confused since Mika Zibanejad rejoined the team four games ago.
Quinn said he would take a look at the power-play personnel, but it makes no sense to have four righties on the first unit while Kaapo Kakko works on the second unit, whose time is generally truncated. Plus, Artemi Panarin moving out of the left circle to right wing in order to accommodate Zibanejad has created confusion within the first group.
Look, the Rangers are 13-10-3. Anybody would have signed up for that. But the team has flaws. One of them is avoiding getting blown out.
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