Are the New York Rangers for real this season? For the first time in a while, the Rangers are on the losing end of a defensive battle, which is usually their forte. While it is obvious that the Rangers have struggled to produce offense at times this season, it is rare that the Rangers lose because of obvious defensive breakdowns that are exposed repeatedly throughout the game.
Tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers shows signs that the Rangers may not be able to keep up the level of team defense for much longer. The Rangers consistently left open areas of ice in their defensive zone that the Oilers were able to exploit to win the game. The defensive breakdowns that the Rangers had came early and often tonight, as right from the start the Rangers left the high slot area open.
The Oilers have the offensive power to be a huge playoff contender. However, they have had struggles with defense and goaltending, leading to a poor record despite their raw talent. What the Oilers love to do is set up their top scorers in the high slot and set them up for one-timers and quick shots, something that came in droves tonight as the Rangers left that area mostly open all game.
The Oilers showed real promise tonight, being able to beat the red hot Rangers at their own game. While the Rangers struggled on defense, the Oilers excelled and were able to also get top notch goaltending out of newly acquired goaltender Ben Scrivens, as well as get offensive support from their young stars. Nail Yakupov was able to find his favorite spot on the ice — the high slot — and be wide open all night to get off multiple shots, six in total. Despite the superb play of Rangers goalie Cam Talbot, Yakupov and the Oilers were still able to find a way to beat Talbot twice to seal the victory. On the other hand, the Oilers got amazing support from their goalie Scrivens yet again, making 35 saves, only 14 saves fewer than his record setting outing last time (Scrivens made 59 saves in his last start).
While the Rangers struggled with the high powered offense of the Oilers, it is no cause for concern at this point. Yes, the Rangers look as if they are tired on defense. Yes the Rangers look like they could unravel completely if their defense struggles any further; but, with that being said, if the Rangers can make minor adjustments then they can turn around completely and be better than ever. And there’s no better time than now, with the Olympic break only one game away. The break will allow the Rangers to recuperate and gain their energy back, and then return ready to push ahead to the playoffs and beyond.
While the Rangers may have looked tired and lazy on defense tonight, this should not cause a serious problem for them if they can all return healthy and rested from the Olympic break.