It’s been par for the course when it comes to the start of the New York Rangers 2018-19 season. Through eight games, the Blueshirts are 2-5-1 at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division where many believe they will stay for the remainder of the year.
One of the early concerns has been New York’s offense, which has slotted just 19 goals in their opening games, tied for last in the Eastern Conference. Yet four of the team’s five losses have been by just a single goal.
Rookie head coach David Quinn believes it’s because his attack is hesitating, allowing the opposing goalie to set themselves in the best position to make a save. And right now, it’s all in the head.
“I think it’s more of a mindset,” Quinn said. “I still don’t think we’re quick-release, take-advantage-of-broken-plays type of team. When there’s a loose puck, we look to hold it, then shoot it. I think we’ve got to be more tenacious with a shooting mentality.”
The Rangers have actually exhibited a knack of moving the puck well enough to open up scoring chances. It’s just the killer instinct that is lacking.
They rank fifth in the NHL with 275 shots on goal, but their shooting percentage of just 6.5-percent is third worst in the NHL and at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference.
“Too many times, we get a loose puck and it’s hold it, stickhandle, then make a pass as opposed to just getting it to the net and maybe getting them turned around a little bit,” Quinn said.
During Sunday’s loss to the Calgary Flames, the Rangers unleashed 45 shots on third-year goaltender David Rittich, who had just nine career wins entering the clash at Madison Square Garden. He turned away 44 of those chances as the Flames handed New York its second-straight loss.
Quinn was hesitant to give Calgary’s backup too much credit, though.
“He played well, He played really well, but we’ve got to find ways to take advantage of our chances and we just haven’t done that,” Quinn said. “Throughout the season, we just haven’t been able to be opportunistic.”
That kind of frustration is starting to be felt on the players, especially star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
“I feel like these types of games are starting to add up, unfortunately,” Lundqvist said. “We are playing good enough to win games, but we are not finding ways to win games… There were a lot of good things again… Just cash in when you get an opportunity.”
Veteran winger Mats Zuccarello, one of the last remaining notable skaters from the Rangers’ postseason days, believes it’s something more tangible than a mindset.
“It’s a skill to score,” Zuccarello said. “We created a lot of chances and we can sit here and say that we didn’t play a bad game, but we lost. So it’s not good enough… We do it to ourselves, some mistakes here and there and they capitalize.”
The Rangers face a struggling Florida Panthers team on Tuesday night that has allowed 25 goals over six games this year. That means there will be chances, but it’s up to the Rangers to display the aggression needed to capitalize.