It’s starting to look ugly for the Rangers with flaws beginning to show

You could say this has been a long time coming, but this type of deficient performance has been a recurring theme for the last five weeks in which the Rangers have won eight of their last 16 (8-7-1) while losing by three or more goals five times.

So this 6-3 defeat Monday night at the Garden to a Canucks team that is the highest-scoring team in the league overall and at five-on-five while boasting the NHL’s best goal-differential at plus-53 was not a singular event for the squad that has gone 4-4-1 over the last nine contests and have seen its puffy playoff cushion slowly deflate.

There were too many turnovers in key areas — again. There were too many poor decisions with and without the puck — again. There were too many mistakes positionally — again. There were too many Grade A opportunities with which Igor Shesterkin was forced to contend — again.

Defensive-zone coverage and defensive play was reminiscent of the bad old days when Dave Karpa, Igor Ulanov manned the blue line. Well, maybe not that bad. On third thought, yes, maybe it was on this night on which Elias Pettersson and Nils Hoglander scored circus goals 1:14 apart late in the second period after the Blueshirts had come within 3-2.

Canucks center Elias Pettersson (40) scores a goal past New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) as he is checked by New York Rangers center Vincent Trocheck (16) during the second period. Robert Sabo for NY Post

“It’s been more than one or two games for sure,” said captain Jacob Trouba. “I think [lack of detail] has drifted into our game.”

Again. This isn’t new for this club that has been on kind of a binge and purge tear that began with the 6-2 defeat in Ottawa on Dec. 5 that at the time was a shocker. It’s good when they are knocked down they got up again, but there have been way too many kayos for a team that is supposed to be protected by its structure.

Problem is — and I must have used this phrase when Karpa and Ulanov roamed the Earth — the club’s structure seems as sturdy as paper-mache. It has looked ugly out there.

This one, though, stands out because of head coach Peter Laviolette’s curious decision to sit Brennan Othmann for all but two shifts in the second period in which he double-shifted Artemi Panarin from the first drop of the puck after the first period ended 3-1 the other way. Panarin skated with both the Mika Zibanejad-Chris Kreider connection and his customary mates Vincent Trocheck and Alexis Lafreniere.

That bumped Blake Wheeler down to the third/fourth line with Will Cuylle and Nick Bonino, at least for a stretch. Cuylle himself only took four second-period shifts amounting to 2:50 of ice time. It was bizarre, though. Trocheck got only 4:48 while Wheeler got 5:04 of ice in the second.

Maybe this was the club’s lack of depth up front manifesting itself through coaching decisions but still, it seemed as if Laviolette had a very quick trigger finger after 20 minutes. It is not as if he benched K’Andre Miller, who looked awful on a pair of goals and was on for a total of three with partner Trouba.

Laviolette said that there’d been nothing amiss with Othmann’s work in the first period of the 21-year-old’s third NHL game. It was not be to be interpreted as a benching. Indeed, Othmann took four shifts worth 2:32 in the third period in a quasi-normal rotation until Laviolette went back-to-back and belly-to-belly with the Zibanejad and Trocheck units from 5:57 to 9:18 of the third.

Apparently Kaapo Kakko, now on the fast track to recovery, can’t get back soon enough. Maybe he will be reunited with Zibanejad and Kreider in a reprise of the line that was intact the season’s first 11 games. And Othmann, who played a sum of 7:33 after getting 7:16 in Montreal, will probably be back in Hartford lickety-split.

Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers reacts to the loss to the Vancouver Canucks after the game at Madison Square Garden on Jan 8. Getty Images

“There were guys I thought were really going inside the game and I was trying to double-shift them and get them out there,” Laviolette said. “When you do that it’s at the expense of different players.

“You double-shift three or four times in a period and somebody has got to sit down. [Othmann] still got some shifts through the course of the game. It wasn’t anything he did or anything I said to him. It was more trying to get what I saw on the ice, players who were really clicking, and trying to push them more.”

Clearly, though, the coach did not have the confidence to elevate Othmann into a top-six role. It is also true at the same time that the Rangers didn’t lack for generating multiple chances in pumping 42 shots on Thatcher Demko that included a fair number of Grade As. In that regard, Othmann’s offense was not missed.

But here we are nearly halfway through the season. The bottom-six is a jumble, to put it kindly. The top-six seems to be short a part for the Zibanejad unit. The twin long-term absences of Kakko and Filip Chytil are taking a toll. The team has begun to play defense like a flashback from the Ron Low Era.

Igor Shesterkin and the Rangers have gone 4-4-1 across the last nine games. Getty Images

Look it up, kids, if you dare.

It wasn’t pretty.

For the last five weeks, neither is this.

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