What does the Rangers’ spotty game in Montreal say about their play this season?
The Rangers won their last game 6-5 against the Montreal Canadiens in dramatic fashion. After an early 4-0 goal deficit two periods in the game, the Rangers persevered and battled back against Montreal in a comeback for the ages. Though the game was entertaining, it feels like a representation of the Rangers’ spotty play this season. This win perfectly encapsulates the team that beat the dominant Capitals 4-1, then lost to Ottawa 1-4 two nights after.
One issue the Rangers have been struggling with all season that was evident during their game with Montreal is their defense. The Rangers are still searching for consistency on the blueline. Players like Fox and DeAngelo have been bright spots this season, but other players like Skjei haven’t quite stepped up to the plate.
As a result, the Rangers have been dependent on either good goaltending or offensive power to cover their defensive lapses. Unfortunately, Georgiev was having an off night during the first part of Saturday’s game, and so the Rangers gave up 4 goals in the first 2 periods against Montreal.
However, the offense mounted a comeback. Chytil opened up the scoring in the second period, and the Rangers battled back to 4-3 by the period’s end, and eventually, a 6-5 win. Much of this offense was generated by players the Rangers are looking to build around for the future, which is a promising sign. Chytil has been playing great since his stint in Hartford, putting up 9 points in 12 games. Lemieux also had a great night against Montreal, scoring two of the Ranger’s 6 goals. Fox, Panarin, and Trouba also put up points on Saturday.
The Rangers should be encouraged by how the players they want to build around have been playing well and show the ability to create offense, even in dire circumstances. They also demonstrated resilience and the ability to stay the course and crumble under pressure which will be key for the future.
That said, this game felt a bit similar to the season-opening 6-4 win against Winnipeg in that the Rangers’ offense played well enough to overcome the team’s defensive struggles. Right now, it feels like the Rangers are two different teams: the sharp, focused NYR who are capable of decisively winning games, and the sluggish, off-kilter NYR who struggle to create chances and make plays. Usually, we see a mix of the two on the ice, and this kind of spotty play has become a hallmark of the season thus far. The shift between the two styles of play was certainly evident in Montreal on Saturday.
While it’s frustrating that games like the one in Montreal have been typical for the Ranger this year, it’s important to remember that they are still in a rebuild. They’re one of the youngest teams in the league now and have players who are still trying to find their stride or figure out their game in the NHL.
Hopefully, the Rangers continue to take steps forward and cut down on their defensive struggles, letting us see more of the team that beat Washington and less of the one that lost to Ottawa.
Featured Image: Graham Hughes