Why are the Rangers Struggling?

Jacob Wasserman

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Let me start of by making it clear that I still believe that the New York Rangers will be a playoff team this year. They accumulated a lot of points early on in the season so they have a little bit of leeway. Also, their forwards have certainly exceeding all expectations, by putting up a lot of goals (especially their scoring of six goals in a recent 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars). However, the Rangers have been struggling on defense and in goal recently.

Let’s start with the defense. As of writing this, the Rangers are carrying seven defensemen, and they are Ryan McDonough, Marc Staal, Kevin Klein, Dan Girardi, Nick Holden, Brady Skjei, and Adam Clendining. Though not playing to their full potentials, McDonagh, Staal, Holden, and Skjei have been rather well. However, Kevin Klein and Dan Girardi are dragging the team down. Klein had a pretty decent season last year, but he has certainly not had anything close to that this year. In my opinion, he needs to be benched in favor of Adam Clendening (who usually sits when there are no injuries), or gotten rid of all together with a better replacement. As if a player could be worse than that, there is Dan Girardi. Dan Girardi has been absolutely helpless this year. To make things worse, he usually plays with Ryan McDonagh, who is probably the team’s best defenseman. The blame for that surely goes on head coach, Alain Vigneault, who should recognize this issue, and make lineup changes.

Henrik Lundqvist is a whole separate issue. Lundqvist is undoubtedly a Rangers legend, who has given the franchise more than a decade of elite-level play. This season, on the other hand, has been a struggle for him. Before the season, it was announced that Lundqvist would play in fewer games than usual, to keep him fresh for the playoffs. However, with a few injuries to back-up, Antti Raanta, that has not been possible. That means that when Lundqvist struggles, he can’t just sit one out. That has resulted in a few bad stretches of play from Lundqvist. He has been playing well lately, so hopefully that is a sign of good things to come.

The combination of an often struggling defensive corps and an often struggling goalie results in a lot of goals conceded. That is especially painful when they score something like 5 goals, only to give up 6 and lose. The Rangers’ defense needs to pick it up if they want to repeat their playoff runs of 2013 and 2014, and finally win Henrik Lundqvist a Stanley Cup.