The New York Rangers are one of the best teams in the NHL this season, there is no question about that. They are holding on to the top spot in the Eastern Conference and have been one of the top five teams in entire NHL for most of the season.
Game in and game out, the Rangers have played incredibly well. They have a superb defense, a stellar goaltending tandem and an above-average offense.
However, even the greatest teams have their issues, and the Rangers are no exception. Despite their success this season, the Rangers do have some issues in their game that I feel are keeping them from being the undisputed No. 1 team in the entire NHL.
Here is a list of the Rangers' three biggest problems that need to be fixed.
The third biggest problem the Rangers have is in the faceoff circle. This is a statistic that goes unnoticed most of the time, but it is very important, and the Rangers are, quite frankly, not very good at them.
Faceoffs are a crucial part of the game of hockey. Winning them allows you to control the puck and get on the offensive, forcing the other team to go on the defensive and try to stop you.
The Rangers do not win many faceoffs, but the fact that they have such an amazing defense overshadows the fact that they do not win faceoffs. However, the Rangers are unable to win crucial faceoffs when they need to, and that can be a big issue heading down the stretch.
When the Rangers are in their own zone with only minutes to play in a game where they are ahead by only a goal, or after an icing where they have a very tired line out on the ice, it is crucial to come out with the faceoff win and allow yourself to run the clock out and change your players. The Rangers are usually unable to do that.
It is not just one person, either. None of the Rangers' centers seem to have the ability to win faceoffs in key situations. The only one that is really impressive is Brad Richards, but he cannot be on the ice all the time taking every faceoff.
By not winning faceoffs, many times the Rangers allow teams to keep the puck in their zone for an extended period of time, which leads to scoring chances and a usually tired line after an icing having to stay on the ice for longer than they physically can.
The Rangers' inability to win faceoffs has the potential to put them in bad situations, and in some drastic situations, it could cost them the game.
The second biggest problem the Rangers have is in the shootout. When a game goes into a shootout with the Rangers, it usually makes fans cringe because they are not very good at them.
The problem is certainly not in the goaltending; Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron are two incredibly talented goalies and have kept the Rangers in every shootout they have taken part in this year. Yet the Rangers are 3-4 in shootouts this season.
Why is this? It is due to the Rangers' inability to score and help out their goalies in the shootout.
The Rangers have been a much better scoring team this season. The acquisition of Brad Richards has propelled them to new scoring heights that they did not see much of last season.
However, all of that scoring ability goes away in shootouts. The Rangers do not have one reliable person on the roster who is able to trick a goalie and score a shootout goal.
Sometimes they are able to pull it out, like they did on Wednesday against Buffalo, but that was only because Henrik Lundqvist stopped four out of the five attempts by the Sabres. If Lundqvist is off one night, the Rangers' scorers are unable to bail him out in the shootout and they would end up losing.
Luckily for the Rangers, shootouts are not a part of the playoff overtimes, but every point counts in the standings, and with the Boston Bruins being hot on their tails, the Rangers need every point they can get. Not receiving that extra point by not winning in the shootout can prove to be costly for the Rangers if they do not find a way to start winning them.
As if this was not obvious enough, the Rangers' biggest problem that they need to fix is their power play. There are not many things you can say that are good about the Rangers' power play; it is pretty much just awful.
Many times it looks like a two-minute passing drill that the Rangers put on during the game. Many times they will not even get a shot off, and a lot of time is spent skating down the other end of the ice and getting the puck that has just been cleared by the opposing team.
This picture is also a great depiction of how a Rangers' power play looks: the other team getting the opportunity to score. Many times it appears that the opposing team is the one on the power play, because they get more scoring opportunities than the Rangers do.
Waiting for the perfect pass and the highlight reel goal, the Rangers do not have much success on the power play. I wish that they implicated the NFL rule of being allowed to decline penalties, because nearly every Rangers fan knows a power play ends up just eating up the clock because no scoring is going to be done.
The Rangers need to figure out how to fix the power play more than anything else on the team. Whether it be changing up the players, shopping around for more scorers or changing up the entire power-play scheme as a whole, something needs to be done.
The New York Rangers are a great team, and one of the best in the NHL. They have the potential to win the Stanley Cup this year if they are able to fix their issues.
Luckily for them, when the playoffs roll around, the shootout goes away, so they only have to worry about toughing them out for the season. However, the faceoffs and the power plays are here to stay, and the Rangers need to do something to fix them.
In a playoff game where every little thing is important to the team's success, it could be those faceoffs lost in their own zone and the failed power plays that the Rangers have been able to bail themselves out of during the regular season that could cost them their chance at the Cup.
This is the best chance the Rangers have had to win the Cup in recent memory, and they have all the tools in place to have a long playoff run. If they are able to fix these problems, which are really not that bad, I have no doubt they will be playing hockey into late spring.