New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy (2) defends New York Rangers center Kevin Hayes (13) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in New York, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New York – It seems as if we are watching the pre-lockout New York Rangers as they drop yet another game, this time to the New York Islanders 4-3 in a shootout. In the 2003-2004 season the Rangers went 27-40-7-8 (that was when ties were still in existence). The Rangers are now 1-5-2 in their first seven games of the 2017-2018 season. They finished the month of October 3-3-2 back in ’03-04, so they were better than then they are now. October isn’t over yet but both the Rangers and their fans sure want it to be. The next question is, will Alain Vigneault even see the end of October?
It’s funny to think that Vigneault, through his five season with the Rangers, has an over .600 winning percentage and is now on the hottest seat in the world with his job. The Rangers are bad, and its mostly the players fault for being bad. Many people will attack the coaches and to an extent, it can be them as well. Its the players though who are on the ice and the players that are on the ice for the Rangers are bad. Every single player has not brought their “A” game at all this season. We can put each players game under a microscope but that would take up too much time. Every player is just not performing up to the task and change is needed.
Living in a cap world, changes that need to happen can’t just happen based on that wonderful salary cap. What’s the next best thing when a general manager’s hands are tied? A change of “philosophy” and by that it means send a message to the players that they basically cost their coach his job. You go back to the game just a few nights ago against the Penguins and you listen to the players and coaches in the post game interview. Player says, “it’s frustrating” and coach says, “makes no sense to be frustrated”. That right there should tell you not everyone is on the same page.
The Rangers organization over the last few years has been a relatively patient team when it comes to making trades or giving players more time to get better. There is a decent chance the Rangers stay like that with Vigneault. Fans on the other hand, won’t like it very much. An interesting stat to look at through these first seven games is the Blueshirts have registered a season-high 41 shots on goal in tonight’s game, and 16 of 18 Rangers recorded at least one shot on goal. The Rangers have recorded 30 or more shots on goal in each of the last five games and in seven of eight games thus far in 2017-18. So they are shooting the puck, just can’t finish. Is that really on the coach? No, its on the player. You have to imagine frustration and tension is growing in the locker room and it’s another bad game away from reaching its breaking point.
We saw some contribution from guys who really need to get their season going. David Desharnais, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes scored each of the Rangers three goals. The Rangers did dominate the third period and got back into the game to force the overtime and get a point they desperately needed.
After tonight’s game, the head coach still believes his team is getting close to turning the corner. When asked about getting off to better starts he said, “It’s a combination of us obviously playing better with the puck, like we’ve mentioned a few times, and we’re going to continue. Obviously, it’s challenging mentally but our guys, I look at how they’re getting ready and the attention to detail that they’re trying to do on the ice and how they battled back again tonight…I can only be supportive and our whole coaching staff is the same way, and our players have got to stick with it. If they stick with it, the results are going to come.”
The biggest issue is how his team is doing mentally as the early season struggle continues and Vigneault said, “That’s the challenge we face right now as a group, and the only way to get those bounces is to continue to play the right way and continue to work hard. That’s what we’re doing right now and you saw the third period – we spent close to ten minutes in the Islanders’ end, so we’ve got to bottle that up and get ready for the next game and bring that against Nashville”.
Defensemen Brendan Smith who was a healthy scratch twice this season was asked about the current run of play for the Rangers and he said, “I think some of the bounces aren’t going our way. And that’s life, that’s hockey and that’s sports. There are areas I thought we played well, and we have to build on those. Like anything, if you flip the coin how many times it goes heads, it’s going to come back tails. And we need it to come back in our favor, and it’s going to. If we just keep that process, it’s going to come our way and we’re going to build on it”.
The players themselves seem to believe things will turn around and they will. This team is good enough to turn it around but the frustration is there. Alain Vigneault’s days as of now could be numbered. He better stack up on gum because he’ll be chewing a life time of gum if his team continues to be this bad and not get results as he sits there wondering if he will get fired.
David Desharnais registered a goal, won eight of 10 faceoffs (80.0%), recorded two shots on goal, and posted a plus-one rating. He has tallied a goal in each of the last two games, and he extended his point streak to three games (two goals, two assists over the span). Desharnais has posted a faceoff win percentage of 50.0% or better in seven of eight games in 2017-18, including a 60.0% faceoff win percentage or better in five different contests.
Kevin Shattenkirk tallied an assist, led all skaters with four blocked shots, and posted a plus-one rating while skating in a team-high 23:13 of ice time. Shattenkirk is tied for the team lead in assists (five) and points (seven) this season, and he has recorded a point in six of eight games thus far in 2017-18. In addition, Shattenkirk extended his point streak to three games (one goal, two assists over the span).
Jesper Fast recorded his first assist/point of the 2017-18 season, tied for the game-high with five hits, and posted a plus-one rating in 15:15 of ice time. Fast has registered 12 hits in three games thus far this season.