The road trip came on the heels of New York’s worst game of the season, a 4-1 loss at home against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 19. That is the one game of the nine they’ve played so far that coach Peter Laviolette didn’t like all the way through.
He didn’t like a stretch of about 25 minutes midway through a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 14, when they allowed four goals, but take away that stretch and the game against Nashville and the Rangers have allowed 10 goals in the other approximately seven and a half games.
“From a defensive standpoint I do think that the guys have made a commitment to coming back and making it difficult to play through the neutral zone and even more to the point in our end and to generate in our end,” Laviolette said. “If you can do that you can win a lot of hockey games. We continue to talk and push the other side of the game, the attack side.”
That’s the area where the Rangers aren’t feeling as good. Their 5-on-5 shot and chance generation has led to a deficiency in scoring.
They’re in the offensive zone at even strength 41.1 percent of the time, slightly above the League average of 40.7 percent, but aren’t generating much from it. They have scored 12 goals at 5-on-5 and are shooting 6.4 percent, bottom third in both statistical categories.
The good news is their power play is rolling. It was 7-for-18 (38.9 percent) on the road trip and is 11-for-32 (34.4 percent) this season. But that’s not enough to satisfy the Rangers.
“We want to keep playing good defense, but at the same time I don’t think we’ve talked about sacrificing offense to play defense,” Zibanejad said. “I think we can do more from the defensive work that we’re doing to counter quicker. We have some good zone time. Looking around this room I see a lot of offensive talent and offensive ability on every line, so we just have to keep harping on making sure we execute more at 5-on-5. We’ve done a lot of good things. We’ve created some chances. If we get one. it might open up the floodgates here.”
The key, though, as Zibanejad and Laviolette both said is to not take away from what they’re doing defensively to push for more 5-on-5 offense.
“The area that for me was really important was in the offensive zone was when it’s no longer our possession that we don’t stand there, we don’t risk anything,” Laviolette said. “In the two games we lost the odd man rushes against was a really large number. You’re going to have to withstand one or two or three a game and I feel you can still win the game, but when it’s eight to 10, your chances to win the hockey game go down. That’s the only thing really that we’ve changed. We’re still in the offensive zone, we’re just not getting to where we need to get to and delivering what we need to deliver. I think it’s going to come. I feel like we’ll get there. But it’s a work in progress.”
That’s why Panarin didn’t want to say much about his nine-game point streak and the Rangers five-game winning streak.
There’s been a lot of good but being satisfied could lead to complacency.
“It’s hard to do, but we have to help each other stay focused,” Panarin said. “We’re all humans. It’s hard to do when you have success.”