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The Rangers Season Is Already On The Ropes

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No game could summarize the first couple weeks of the Rangers 2017-18 season like last night’s tilt vs Pittsburgh. Another slow start followed by a little bit of fight that comes up short because they can’t get out of their own way. Captain Ryan McDonagh – yet to tally an even-strength point this year while being on the ice for half the team’s goals against – brought this reeling squad to rock bottom after one of the most brutal giveaways I’ve ever seen in OT.

He also was poorly positioned to allow a Penguins goal within the first minute of the game & tried to get a primary assist shortly after on a turnover to Crosby wide open in the slot. The Rangers captain deserves as much blame as anyone else for the 1-5-1 start. But the entire defense has performed below expectations outside of perhaps Marc Staal, and that’s only because his expectations were zero. Skjei & Smith are far from the duo we saw close last year. Shattenkirk has found himself on the scoresheet in 5 of 7 games but so far has proven everyone who barked about his defensive deficiencies correct. Crosby owned him behind the net with under a minute left & threw a puck off Lundqvist for the late equalizer. These four were supposed to be the backbone of a stable, reliable back end. Instead they piled up 17 turnovers & literally gave the game away.

While I’m almost always in the camp of placing most of the responsibility on players, AV is absolutely not helping any. I simply don’t understand his inability to keep his mitts off the lineup and give individuals, combos & lines any time to gel. He abandoned the McD/Shatty combo that was the plan ever since #22 inked in July after less than 2 games. Brendan Smith was scratched just 2 games into the season after signing a 4-year deal. Tony DeAngelo was stapled to the bench against the Habs before watching a pair from the press box himself.

And why? To get Nick Holden and/or Steve Kampfer in the lineup? Listen, there’s no doubt these guys are all struggling – and while a trade or contract doesn’t make someone exempt from demotions, etc. it absolutely SHOULD buy a little bit of leash to gel as the season kicks off. I mean what does it say about a coach who works all offseason to make lineup decisions only to end up drawing pairings out of a hat on a nightly basis because of a couple bad outings? It tells me he lacks trust in his personnel & is unsure of himself too. That’s not the type of leader a squad like this needs.

AV’s lineup abuse reaches far beyond the defense too. Can anyone explain why he pretended to give preseason stud Filip Chytil a chance to succeed on the big stage? Vigneault shocked the Rangers fanbase by penciling him into the opening night lineup, only to decide the kid couldn’t cut it after less than 13 minutes in 2 games. What was the point? Was his only shot at sticking around to pull an Auston Matthews & bury 4 in his debut? While it was unrealistic for the 18 year-old to have stuck around for an entire NHL season, it’s equally unreasonable to backtrack so quickly on the decision to give him a shot in the first place. And why was Buchnevich seeing 4th line minutes last night?

Yes it’s only 7 games, but the Blueshirts are in trouble. They were gifted a friendly schedule (10 of first 12 are home games) yet they’re digging themselves a huge hole. NY is getting dominated at even strength and pissing away a 25% PP by giving up just as many goals on the kill. A few guys finally found their way into the goal column last night but we’re still waiting on Kreider & Vesey. Outside of Zib & JT there’s no forward with more than 1 on the year. Zuccarello’s a MINUS NINE. Their defense is in disarray from the captain on down, Lundqvist isn’t getting younger and their head coach is as decisive as your girlfriend picking a restaurant. If the Rangers drop another one tomorrow night to the rival Isles at MSG, you gotta wonder if the front office wants to save face & stick with the coach they just extended for 2 years no matter what or make a move behind the bench to try & save their season.