Are the Rangers good? Bad habits continue to bite New York at wrong times | amNewYork

Before the season began, it was a foregone conclusion that the New York Rangers would be one of the top teams not only in the Metropolitan Division but also in the Eastern Conference.

New York has been hit with a hard reality through the first 13 games of the NHL season: Their playoff run last year won’t be enough to make them winners this season.

At 6-4-3, it’s easy to say that while Rangers haven’t played well, they’ve done enough to show that an early season can slide once they figure out the struggles. But the same issues that plagued New York in the first month of the season seem to have stagnated as they hit the middle of November.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. For Rangers, turning the puck, odd-man races, poor communication, and missed offensive opportunities in efforts to clear neutral territory have been rampant in the team’s first 13 games.

It’s easy to say that lack of puck luck is hurting Rangers. Players like Capo Kako, Alexis Lafrenier and Vincent Trochek have all played well but have not been able to score as much as they want.

A higher expected target for the average isn’t enough to allay concerns about the team’s aggressive approach. After a 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday, the same issues rear their ugly head back in the game. With a 2–0 lead after the first period, New York had one of the worst periods in the entire year due to a lack of puck discipline and poor defense.

Gerard Gallant is left with no choice but to move his lines around.

“I don’t think we’re playing well enough as a team game.” Gallant told reporters on Monday. “We do a lot of cool things aggressively, but not last night…so little shakeups and hope things work out.”

Part of that shakeup is Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibnejad moving together in the top row, Alexis Lafrenier playing in his natural left wing position, and Chris Kreider being hit by the bottom six.

As Gallant and Rangers look for possible solutions to their disappointing game to start the season, injuries are also a fair point to emphasize. Ryan Lindgren’s play against the Islanders is doubtful on Tuesday, Vitaly Kravtsov has not spent more than 10 minutes on the ice so far this year due to injuries, and Rangers welcomed the return of Philip Chitill from a six-game absence.

But there are many stars in the roster of this Rangers team who are playing. And those stars are not getting on well enough with the rest of the club to find ways to win games, a team with so much talent should.

If Rangers are to prove that they are among the best in the league, the pretense of ominous bounces and aggressive play must stop. The stars have to play like the stars, the role-playing players need to stick to their roles and only then can New York start the winning streak like last season.

Until that time, it’s not too far-fetched to question whether this team is as good as they really say they are.

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