Finish, finish, finish. And no, I am not talking about the country — what Gary Thorne would say after watching a team struggling to score goals. I am talking about the New York Rangers. Last night’s game at home against the St. Louis Blues was all about capitalizing on limited opportunities and finishing off a play. Blues did exactly that and the Rangers failed, leading to a 2-1 loss.
The Rangers’ powerplay has had a major turn around from last year, as they went from ranking near the bottom of the league in 2012-13 to now in the top 10 in 2013-14. This will change if more teams follow what the Blues did and accomplished, while shorthanded.
I have noticed throughout the year that the way to defeat the Rangers’ powerplay is simply to attack and put constant pressure on the puck handler. The Rangers just do not have a smart team when it comes to decision making and the Blues made them pay. On the flip side, when the Blues had a powerplay in crunch time in the third period, they were able to get a big blast from the point from defenseman, and U.S. Olympian, Kevin Shattenkirk, which turned out to be the game winning goal.
The Rangers tried, they certainly did, but in the end they were just no match for a bigger, more physical and faster team in the Blues. Not only do the Blues have all of those advantages on the Rangers, but they can also finish off plays in limited opportunities. Both teams’ strengths are defense, but unlike the Rangers, the Blues have players that can put the puck in the net, especially from their defense.
Shattenkirk showed us not only the game winning goal last night, but one of the Rangers’ major weaknesses. The Rangers are one of the only teams who do not have one defenseman with a powerful slap shot from the blue line that can get through and on net. This can be said about many of their forwards as well and frankly, how are you supposed to win games, especially against a top team like the Blues, if you cannot score goals when given a small amount of opportunities due to a very good defense?
The answer is you just can’t.
New York has to make some big changes, at forward and defense, if it wants to play head coach Alain Vigneault‘s system consistently at a high level and make noise this season, which is now quickly approaching its end.