The Rangers are still trying to stabilize in a tight Metro

The Rangers are still trying to stabilize in a tight Metro

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Not far from the end of the first quarter of the season, the Rangers continue to try to stabilize amid a turbulent start that has them sitting in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.

There have been losses that should have been wins, wins that should have been losses, and a fluctuation in his play from period to period that has led to whiplash. That “it” factor seems like every contending team — and the Rangers certainly had it last season — hasn’t appeared since their season-opening win over the Lightning just over a month ago.

The Rangers may only get to game 19 of 82 on Saturday against the Sharks, but enough has happened in the 2022-23 season for their division’s tight competition to take shape.

Devils fans at the Prudential Center the other night apologized to head coach Lindy Ruff for asking for his job at the start of the season. The Devils have now won 11 straight and lead the Metro with a 14-3-0 record for 28 points, which is tied with the Golden Knights for second in the NHL.

Gerard Gallant, Rangers coach
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

The Islanders are trying to make this a redemption season after a losing campaign in 2021-22, and they’ve gotten off to the kind of start that could allow them to do just that. With a .611 hitting percentage and an 11-7-0 record, the Islanders are currently in third place in the division. And as expected, the second-ranked Hurricanes are just as potent as they were last season.

The Rangers, especially their star players, have a responsibility to break out of their mediocrity if they want to remain competitive in a loaded Eastern Conference.

“[Opponents are] will have momentum We’re not going to be able to dominate just a full 60 minutes, it’s still an NHL team we’re playing against,” Mika Zibanejad said after the Rangers lost 3-2 in overtime to the Kraken on Thursday. “But I think by saying , there’s probably a lot we can do better in terms of when you feel the shift in momentum. When you feel they are having their chances. I’d say they get a lot of their chances from our mistakes and breakdowns and stuff.”

Scoring during five-on-five play has been an issue of late. The Rangers have simply been a quantity over quality shooting team when they should be the opposite. They are currently tied with the Wild for second-most losses in games in which they have outscored their opponents (five), behind only the Flames and Panthers’ six.

Artemi Panarin, who leads the Rangers with 22 points, has gone three straight games without a single five-on-five shot for the second time in his NHL career. The Rangers aren’t built to persevere in games where the top six aren’t pulling their weight, at least when the team doesn’t land an otherworldly goaltender.

The Rangers have also struggled mightily when pushed to the perimeter, something opponents seem to focus on.

There’s definitely a mental hurdle to clear when a team tries to break out of a rut. Nothing, however, should be more motivating than what is happening around them in the division.

“We have good five-on-five chances, we can’t wait for all the shots to come,” Zibanejad said. “When that conversation starts, it gets frustrating that you can’t score five-on-five. Maybe you overthink it, maybe you don’t have the confidence, maybe you’re looking for an extra pass to make sure it’s a better opportunity than what you have because you don’t feel sure you’re going to score. It’s small things and it can swing so easily.

“I don’t think he comes to be afraid or think too much about it. We’ll just fight for it. It goes up and down throughout the season.”

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