Rangers Suddenly Struggling
Considered one of the top five teams in the league not long ago, the New York Rangers are lately looking like a team that is barely getting by. They've had a terrible March, winning only three games in nine. And with their Metropolitan Division rivals, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, looking better, landing on second place in the division looks doubtful. The division banner is certainly out of reach, since the Washington Capitals have locked that up.
The Rangers' problems start on the defensive side, where underachieving has become a rule. They have a group that includes five former or current all-stars, but they give up way too many shots. San Jose put up 52 of them in a 4-1 win over the Rangers just Saturday. The Rangers' goals against average of 2.6 ranks 16th in the NHL, and their penalty kill is one of worst in the league at 77.3 percent.
On the offensive side, they've been relying on Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard to get them goals. But Ranger fans must be wondering when Rick Nash will ever come around. He finally returned from injury March 12 after missing 20 games with a bruised bone. But he's produced no points in the five games since he came back. Nash is a three-time 40-goal scorer, and had 42 goals and 69 points last year, so you have to think it is just a matter of time.
But time is not something the Rangers have. What they do have is seven home games and three away left in the regular season, including key matchups with Penguins and Islanders.
The three teams are clustered within three points of each other in the standings. I'm looking for the Rangers to make the playoffs, and maybe even get the subway series with the Islanders everyone has been craving. But if opponents continue to swarm the goal, even a stalwart goalie like Henrik Lundqvist can do but so much. If Nash doesn't begin to show life, they won't be able to flat outscore opponents. Right now, a return to the Eastern Conference finals looks seriously in doubt.
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