New York Rangers have a huge problem on the defensive end

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New York Rangers have started the 2019-20 season with a pair of wins. If they keep playing poorly in front of their goaltenders, however, the good times won’t last long.

Two games into the 2019 season and the New York Rangers are 2-0. Their offense is rolling with 10 goals so far, as summer free agent signing Artemi Panarin is leading the Blueshirts out of the offensive malaise that has permeated the team over the past few seasons. It’s great to see the red light flash, the foghorn blare and the Rangers goal song playing to a packed house at MSG. Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, Hey, Hey… Hey, Hey, Hey!

Unfortunately, along with the uptick in offense, the Rangers have been soft in their own end. Thursday, they gave up 47 shots to Winnipeg in the Blueshirts opening night 6-4 win. It was a little better on Saturday as they allowed 32 shots to Ottawa, who could be the worst team in the league this year.

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As hockey fans know, not all shots on goal are created equal. Some scoring chances are better than others. Both New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (Thursday) and Alexandar Georgiev (Saturday) had to make some point-blank saves. Too often opposing skaters got behind the defense.

Also as bad as the in-close shots are the fact that way too many times there was heavy traffic in front of the Rangers crease is more disconcerting. The Blueshirts defensemen either weren’t strong enough to force opposing forwards out of the crease or lacked the will to do so. One of the things the Rangers have tried to do this year is to add some bulk up front. Its why Brendan Smith, Micheal Haley, and Brendon Lemieux are all on the roster.

What is missing is some nastiness on the backline. They have plenty of speed and puckhandling among the defensemen. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who is willing and able to plow the road in front of their goalies. As other NHL teams watch the video of Rangers games this year, they will see that they can put a big body in front of the net and the Blueshirts won’t be able to stop it.

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The NHL average team shooting percentage has held steady in the nine percent range for the past few seasons. Through two games the Rangers are shooting 16.1 percent. Winnipeg and Ottawa shot a combined 6.3 percent. It’s going to even out but the Blueshirts don’t have to exasperate the situation by playing so poorly on their own end of the ice.