It’s been said quite a bit in the last 24 hours how “the right way” for the Rangers has been “the hard way” all season. The Rangers always have to find a way to come from behind, dig out a win and just endure.
But the Rangers also have sacrificed the body all season by blocking shots and delivering necessary hits. We fans have been trained over the course of the season to believe both things are a good thing.
But are they really?
In Game 5, the Rangers blocked 19 shots (to the Senators 10) and had 41 hits (to the Senators 22). In Game 4, the Rangers blocked 30 shots (to the Senators 8 ) and had 26 hits (to the Senators 32).
But there’s something to remember about both of these stats: The Rangers do not have the puck.
Many times when the Rangers were blocking shots, especially in Game 4, they took themselves out of the play. If you’re lying across the ice, how can you pick off the puck? And many times when the Rangers blocked a shot, it rebounded right back to a Senator. There’s no attempting to steal the puck when they’re blocking shots.
The effort to stop shots and dedication to defense is admirable and should be encouraged, but to what extent? That’s especially true when you’re struggling to score.
The same goes for hits. For years I feel like fans have been trained to believe hits is an important stat, but it really isn’t. If you are hitting players, it means you don’t have the puck. If you don’t have the puck, you can’t score, especially if the hit doesn’t generate a turnover. And these days you also run the risk of taking a penalty with a big hit.
The Rangers biggest problem in these three losses has been puck possession. Many of the issues we’ve seen — such as faceoffs — means the Rangers don’t have the puck. Don’t win the faceoff, you don’t have the puck. Block a shot and let it rebound to the Senators, you don’t have the puck.
The Rangers clearly still have a chance in this series, as disappointing as Game 5 was. But it requires them to bring the aggression. They need to establish their forecheck and control the play, which means they’ll have the puck most often. The Rangers forecheck, aggression and puck control is what earned them the first seed this season. They need to get back to that, the basics of their game.
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