The Rangers have now played 11 percent of their season and they have one win. One. That win came five games ago when they avenged their season-opening loss to the Islanders with an impressive 5-0 win over their New York rival. Since then, it’s been losing, losing, losing and more losing.
The Rangers’ season is in trouble. As crazy as that sounds after six games, it’s true. The Rangers’ season began on Jan. 14. There’s a good chance it could be over playoff-wise on Feb. 1.
It’s been a while since I broke down the postgame press conference from a Rangers coach following every game. It’s been eight years actually since John Tortorella gave wild, entertaining, but also outlandish postgame press conferences in what would be his final season as Rangers head coach. Quinn isn’t at the end of his leash in New York the way Tortorella was when he helped usher Marian Gaborik out of town because the dynamic scorer wouldn’t muck it up in the corners or block shots with his face. But Quinn’s seat is heating up. Rangers fans are starting to turn on the third-year coach after the sluggish start to the season coupled with his unfathomable lineup decisions.
Quinn could help himself by making simple yet logical changes to his current in-game strategy. He could remove Ryan Strome from PP1, stop dressing Jack Johnson, not shuffle lines every other shift and play Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad together at even strength. If the Rangers were to still lose with these changes, then so be it. At least they could say they were doing everything possible to try to win. Instead, they will continue on their current course, which has them in last place in the East, tied for the worst record in the league with Ottawa.
Quinn is getting moodier with each loss, and now that there have been four straight, his postgame press conferences are growing more tense. So it’s time to revisit the tradition built during Tortorella’s final season in New York and analyze Quinn’s postgame press conferences after the team loses, using the same format from eight years ago.
On the team’s face-off struggles.
“A face-off is a battle, not only with the centerman, but the flanks and the wingers, and too often we weren’t ready to compete in those battles.”
The Rangers won 30 percent of the face-offs in the game. Thirty percent! Quinn used the word “abysmal” to describe his team’s effort on face-offs and that might be a generous description. The Rangers haven’t been good enough this season in several areas, but face-offs have easily been their most glaring weakness.
On the play from the first two lines.
“Yes, we’re not getting enough from our Top 6, for sure.”
This answer is almost like a trick because no one know who the Top 6 forwards on the team are because of how frequently Quinn shuffles his lines. We know for certain that Panarin, Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, and unfortunately, Strome, are in the Top 6. Filip Chytil’s injury takes him out of the conversation, leaving the other spot to either Alexis Lafrenière or Kappo Kakko. Here’s the thing: the 2020 No. 1 pick and 2019 No. 2 pick should both be in the Top 6. Only on the Rangers would only one of them be in the Top 6, and at times neither of them are.
You would think the Rangers were stacked with forwards to be unable to give Lafrenière and Kakko first- or second-line minutes. That’s poorly Quinn is utilizing his roster. Sadly, Strome is going to continue to be used as the second-best center on the team, if he isn’t any good, and Kreider is going to keep his spot based on seniority and money owed. (Once again why the team should have moved on from him). That means less ice time for Lafreniere and Kakko, the two forwards who should receive the most ice time of anyone not named Panarin or Zibanejad.
To put into perspective how bad the Rangers’ top forwards (whoever they are) have been, Phil Di Giuseppe has as many points (4) as Kreider and Zibanejad combined. Colin Blackwell has as many points (2) as both Kreider and Zibanejad, and as many goals as Zibanejad (1). Lafrenière doesn’t have a point.
I went back and looked at how each No. 1 overall draft pick has started their career since Steven Stamkos was selected first in 2008, and here is the game number each recorded their first career point.
Jack Hughes: 7
Rasmus Dahlin: 4
Nico Hischier: 2
Auston Matthews: 1
Connor McDavid: 3
Aaron Ekblad: 1
Nathan MacKinnon: 1
Nail Yakupov: 2
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 1
Taylor Hall: 2
John Tavares: 1
Steven Stamkos: 8
Lafrenière needs to get on the scoresheet on Thursday to tie Hughes and beat Stamkos. Otherwise he will need to score on Saturday to tie Stamkos. Even if he hasn’t at least picked up a second assist after Monday’s game against Pittsburgh, oh boy.
On the team’s play during the four-game losing streak.
“I thought for the last four nights we were skating and competing, for the most part, 60 minutes.”
If the scoreboard counted expected goals and if the standings counted moral victories, the Rangers wouldn’t own a 1-4-1 record, instead, they’d be 4-1-0. But their knack for blowing leads, allowing soft goals and collectively underachieving has lost them five of six games.
Yes, the Rangers have deserved better. They outshot the Devils 50-28 and controlled play and lost 4-3. They had a 3-1 lead against the Penguins and lost. Then they had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 against Penguins and still lost. They had those same leads against the Sabres and lost again. Some goals against have been soft, but not all of them.
It’s nearly impossible to say your team competed for 60 minutes for four straight games when you lost all four games, but Quinn did just that. Either Quinn has accepted losing or he has yet to realize he is a big reason to blame for some of the losing. (The Rangers haven’t scored a goal when his favorite player Johnson has been on the ice this season.)
On turning the season around.
“I’m still stewing about tonight. We’ll figure that out here in the next 48 hours.”
The Rangers had less than 48 hours until their next game against the Sabres by the time Quinn said he had 48 hours to figure out how to right the season. If the Rangers don’t start turning their moral victories into actual victories over the next three games, there won’t be a season to right.
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