Back To The Drawing Board for Renney and the Rangers
By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist
NEW YORK - Ten goals in 31 shots.
That's the disturbing trend the Rangers faced in the past week as they started to get back into their bad defensive habits which plagued them early in the season.
Coach Tom Renney recognizes the problems and said he is taking steps to solve them.
"When they came at us, they certainly got our neutral zone, they got out blueline and they got the tops of the circles," he said. "It might be communication, it might be missed assignment, it might be confidence. Assignments can get missed in the heat of the battle, but conversation can sort that out. We need to sort that out because we do that everyday in one sort of way in our drills.
"Bottom line, it's a problem."
Sunday's game against the Islanders is a prime example. On Miro Satan's goal to open the scoring, he skated around all five Rangers untouched. Defenseman Karel Rachunek was right in front of him and went untouched. "Watch the replay," Brendan Shanahan, who is one of the few Rangers not guilty of this problem said. "Satan is surrounded by five guys. It is a one on five. He ended up shooting the puck from below the hash marks. Something tells me there is a lack of communication.
"It's a teamwork thing."
It's easy to point fingers at the goaltender. Both Henrik Lindquist [four goals on eight shots in the first period on Sunday] and Kevin Weekes [six for 23] have let in some goals, which should have been stopped, but when the defense gives the other team what Renney called "Grade 'A' premium scoring chances", there's plenty of blame to be sent around.
So what needs to be done? Renney needs to work on the teamwork of the defense. Yes, mistakes will happen, but there seems to be a lack of communication between the forwards and defenseman.
"I think it's a trust thing and we have some new faces," Shanahan said. "When forwards are coming back hard it's usually a signal to the "D" to stand hard. It's not to signal out [anyone], it's a communication thing. We out number teams and they come back and score. There is backchecking and backchecking intelligently."
Renney may try to mix up the defensive pairings once again. The top line of Aaron Ward and Fedor Tyutin has worked well together, but the Rachunek with Sandis Ozolinsh and Marek Malik and Michal Rozsival pairings is mixed. One or two of those may also be benched for Darius Kasparaitis and/or Thomas Pock, both of whom are riding the pine waiting for something to happen.
Whatever he does, though, Renney wants the team to know it's for the benefit of the team.
"I think it's important when you are dealing with this part of the game on how the guys know how serious you are," the coach said. "This sort of revisits our problems earlier in the year, so we have to correct it as quickly as possible."