COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Rangers took their three days of work in the classroom and in practice onto the ice Saturday night against the Blue Jackets.
At least that was the intention following a respite in the schedule that permitted the Rangers to address the mounting number of scoring chances they had permitted over the last batch of contests.
“I hope so. I know we had three good days of hard work and we did some good things going over our system,” head coach Gerard Gallant said before his team’s first contest since a 4-3 victory Monday over the Panthers in which the Rangers were outshot 35-7 at five-on-five and 45-18 overall. “You get playing games all the time, you don’t have any practice time, and I know there are a lot of different things to go over but sometimes you don’t have the chance.
“I think it was a good three days, but as long as the players think that, that’s the main thing. But again, when you go over systems you don’t want them to be sitting on the ice thinking all of the time, you want them to be playing and moving their feet.”
Ryan Lindgren, part of the matchup tandem with Adam Fox that has endured a bumpier ride than usual over the recent stretch in which the team went 1-1-2, does think that the week was a valuable one.
“I think it was needed for us to work on a few things especially after the kind of hectic schedule we’ve had at the start,” Lindgren said. “We’re just giving up too many Grade-A chances, too many shots in the slot and have sort of been leaving [our goalies] to hang out to dry a little bit.
“We’ve got to make sure to clean that up a little bit, just be harder to play against in our one-on-one battles. We need to play more together as a group, be talking, and make sure we get pucks out. The couple of days we had to work on that should help a little bit.”
The Rangers entered Saturday with a 7-3-3 record that could obscure their frailties if the coaching staff and personnel allow it to do that. It is pretty well taken on faith that being dramatically and routinely out-chanced is not a formula to sustain success.
“You’re definitely happier winning games and our record is obviously pretty good right now but we know we’ve got to play better,” Lindgren said. “We can’t keep giving up that many shots and opportunities.”
Over the previous five games, starting with the victory in Seattle on Oct. 31, the Rangers had endured five separate 20-minute periods in which they were outshot 17-3, 17-6, 16-8, 15-4 and 13-2. That accounts for essentially a third of the time. It wasn’t one issue at only one end of the ice, either.
There were breakdowns in coverage, but also blunders handling the puck through the neutral zone that inhibited possession at the other end. So it’s a good thing the Rangers had three days, not one, to work on repairs.
“It’s a combination,” Gallant said. “We’re making some mistakes but you’ve got to commit more to defensive hockey. We’re scoring enough goals to win hockey games, but I think some of those mistakes, some of those turnovers at the offensive blue line, some of the D-zone coverage … I think it’s been a combination of a lot of things.
“We’re fortunate to be 7-3-3, we all know that, but we still are [7-3-3]. We’ve got to get better. That’s what teams are all about. We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to get better every game and that’s what we are trying to do.”
The offense entered Saturday having accounted for 2.54 goals per game. That ranks 24th in the NHL. The Rangers had scored just 16 goals at five-on-five, second fewest in the league. They were outscored 7-0 at full-and-even strength over their previous two games. Mika Zibanejad had scored twice at five-on-five — twice more than Artemi Panarin.
“There have been times where we’ve been spending a little bit too much time in our own end and when that happens you don’t really have the energy to go on the offense,” Zibanejad said. “That happens to every team but it’s been happening a little too much for our liking.“There’s room for improvement. Once we start clicking again and clicking offensively, we’ll be good.”