May 28, 2024

To be frank, there’s no need to soften the truth here. Doing so would not only disrespect the intelligence of the Rangers but also insult the viewers. Despite searching extensively, it’s nearly impossible to find any positive aspect in Tuesday’s 6-1 loss at the Garden to the rapidly advancing Hurricanes.

Vincent Trocheck acknowledged the letdown, especially in a crucial divisional game where the Rangers, previously leading the NHL, now find themselves in second place overall. The defeat marked a significant moment, with Carolina closing in just five points behind the Metro Division leaders, thanks to their impressive 7-1-3 run.

The Rangers’ success so far had been attributed to their exceptional performance on special teams, leading the NHL in power play and ranking fifth in penalty kill. Their combined special team coefficient of 115.8 topped the league. However, despite this, their five-on-five play has been less than stellar, with a record at the match reflecting a minus-1 goal differential.

This statistic holds weight when considering the profile of a potential Stanley Cup champion. Since the NHL expanded in 1967-68, only one team with a negative five-on-five goal differential has won the Cup – the 2011-12 Kings. The Rangers, however, have compensated for this deficiency in full and even strength play through their effective power play and penalty kill until this recent setback against the Hurricanes.

The game highlighted the Rangers’ struggles on the power play, going 0-for-3, a stark contrast to their usual proficiency. Even with 6 minutes of man advantage, they were outshot and failed to generate significant attempts. The overall five-on-five performance was only passable in the first two periods, lacking aggression. In the third period, it seemed as though the team was resigned to participation trophies, allowing three goals without putting up much resistance.

The Rangers couldn’t penetrate the Hurricanes’ defense and struggled to prevent them from gaining a foothold in front of the net. This raises questions about the team’s ability to transition successfully to the postseason, where elite talent faces tighter constraints and willpower often prevails over skill.

The responsibility now falls on GM Chris Drury to strengthen the team before the March 8 deadline, prioritizing players who fit the playoff profile rather than those with flashy names or high scoring records. This echoes the strategy employed in 1994, where the focus was on acquiring players like Stephane Matteau, Craig MacTavish, and others, who contributed to the team’s success in the postseason. The current challenges include dealing with the salary cap and navigating no-move clauses, which weren’t factors three decades ago. The Rangers need to address these issues promptly to enhance their chances in the playoffs.

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