David Quinn, cartographer.
Like so many before him, the Rangers coach used the well-worn map analogy to better explain how he wants his team to play — how he needs his team to play if they want to end their three-game losing streak and find some traction, starting with a Garden matinee on Sunday against the Canucks.
“The only way you can go East-West is if you go North,” Quinn said before his team suffered back-to-back 5-2 losses, the second leg coming to the Capitals down in Washington on Friday night, dropping his team to 2-3-0 on the season. “The best way to go East-West is when you’ve established the fact that you’re going to attack North with some pace, and then that gives you some space, East-West.
“If you’re just thinking [about] playing East-West, you’re in trouble.”
This is part of the issue that Quinn brought up after the first 5-2 loss, coming against the Devils in Newark on Thursday night. The second-year coach said that by the nature of his team adding some high-end skill this offseason, they are often trying to make risky plays rather than taking a simpler, more direct route.
He wants them to be more physical, establish a forecheck, and then look for the plays from there. Thus far, it hasn’t worked in that order.
“I know we talked about that we haven’t been physical enough, but we haven’t put ourselves in a place where we can be physical, unfortunately, because we don’t have enough guys going,” Mika Zibanejad said on Friday night, with the team getting a day off Saturday. “I think it’s just going to get better now that we’re playing more games.”
It’s not that the philosophy has changed just because the Rangers are more talented than they were a year ago. It’s just that it’s been difficult to implement that philosophy with so many new players, and with a schedule where the Rangers have played about half the amount of games the rest of the league has to this point.
“That’s also with a rhythm. And obviously we have a lot of new guys, but I don’t think that changes our style,” Zibanejad said. “We just have to get used to the way we have to play to be successful. Obviously with these kind of breaks, it doesn’t help.”
Of course, the Rangers aren’t making excuses. With such a new team, they would have benefited greatly from starting the season with a lot of games, but instead, the opposite is true.
Now the games start coming with regularity, and they can start plotting their way by using the directions of the wind rose, navigating toward a simpler game that they hope brings better results.
“I’m not worried in that sense. I see the potential in this team,” Zibanejad said. “You see what happens when we do it during games, it’s just not enough. We do a lot of good things out there, but we don’t do it as often as we should to be a good team right now.
“But I think it’s going to come more and more. The more we play, the more we’re going to notice what works, and hopefully build off the good things.”
The Rangers said that nothing has changed with Vitali Kravtsov, despite the 19-year-old prospect posting a picture online Friday posing with players wearing the jersey of his former KHL team, adding a sad-face emoji. Kravtsov has a European Assignment Clause (EAC) in his contract that could allow him to return to the KHL for the duration of that season — without the Rangers permission — and then return right around the NHL’s trade deadline.
But Kravtsov played for AHL Hartford on Friday night in Springfield, when goalie Igor Shesterkin collected his first North American shutout by making 36 saves in a 1-0 victory. Filip Chytil, another young first-rounder with the Wolf Pack, continued his good start by notching an assist, giving him two goals and six points in the team’s first five games.
Kravtsov was expected to be in the lineup when the Wolf Pack played in Binghamton on Saturday night.
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