Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rangers Lack Both Elite Talent And Finishing Quality

Last night’s game showed two huge flaws with this team, ones which are huge reasons why I do not believe the New York Rangers can legitimately threaten to win a Stanley Cup this year.  Of those two flaws, at least one cannot be solved in the final 13 games of this season.  The one that is fixable or at least able to be improved is our level of finishing quality.  The other, which is somewhat related, which cannot be fixed this season is the Rangers lack of elite talent on the offensive end.

Regardless of the talent level of any of the individual players this team is abysmal at finishing the chances they create.  There were three missed open nets, a couple of posts and countless other opportunities that we did not cash in against a replacement level goaltender last night.  We are capable of the 7 goal outbursts because one they get rolling the confidence side takes over and everyone stops thinking about finishing and just shoots, but the Rangers consistent inability to hit the right side of an open net or lift the puck over prone goaltenders is ridiculous.
Most of these guys are not natural goal scorers or at least not of the sniper variety, but you can teach or at least improve technique in finishing around the net.  I am not asking them to learn how to read the play better or beat guys on dazzling moves, just finish when the puck is on your stick within five feet of the net. 
Our coaching staff talks all the time about building with this group, them learning at this level, then how about they start teaching them some basic fundamentals on the offensive end too.  Run it like a free throw drill in basketball for all I care, but do not let them off the ice until they have successfully scored on X many chances from different spots in front.  I would love to see them use that little blocker they had during the skill competition which covers the bottom few inches of the net and forces players to lift the puck off the ice.
Part of what makes for the awful finishing is the lack of elite talent on the roster.  You watch the Ducks and while their lineup certainly lacks the depth and balance that the Rangers have they have three true top line players in Ryan, Getzlaf, and Perry, while the Rangers even at their best have one in Marian Gaborik.  To make matters worse Gaborik has not played at that top level with any consistency this season, partially due to injury, partially from his lack of consistent and/or high end partners, but if the Rangers are going to develop any kind of consistent offense and hold on down the stretch he is going to have to step his game up.  Yes, he did score a goal last night. No, it does not mean anything. 

It is always nice for a player to see the puck go in and you hope they can build on it mentally to avoid pressing, but as we saw just a few shifts later having that goal go in did nothing to help him finish on the open net, which would have cut the game to one at 4-3.  Last year Gaborik buries that goal without question and he also abuses Cam Fowler on that one-on-one play instead of having the puck roll harmlessly to Dan Ellis.  He is just not there this season and while the talk was about the other struggling stars throughout the league just about all of them have found their form again while Gaborik is still searching.
Beyond Gaborik this team is a bunch of hard workers and second line players that lack the natural talent to be game changers.  This is why the Rangers play the grinding style that they do in order to manufacture goals and try to win games.  I see all this talk about why don’t the Rangers open it up more and play with more skill in the safe is death mode and the simple answer is we do not have that kind of personnel. 
The lack of top line, game breaking players is what has many eager to jump into the Brad Richards sweepstakes, but I look at the Ducks and most of the other top lines/players in the league and I cannot think of one that was “bought.”  Nearly all of the best lines in the league were built through the draft and while Brad Richards will certainly add talent to Marian Gaborik how long does he remain at that level so that the Rangers as an organization can sustain their ability to contend.