Seven games into this Lockout shortened season and this seems to be the question on every Ranger fans mind. After back to back solid performances against the Maple Leafs and the Flyers the Rangers went out on Thursday night and got shutout by the Penguins. What did we see from this game against Pittsburgh? Not much to be happy about if you are a Ranger fan. As usual when playing the Penguins you know getting a call is not going to be easy and every time you touch the “Golden Boy” Sidney Crosby you are going to find yourself in the sin bin, but to clearly turn your head when Evgeni Malkin tomahawk chops Marc Staal in the head, after his battle with a concussion last season, is just irresponsible and a blatant slap in the face to the Rangers and hockey fans. Discussing the poor refereeing could take another post, which maybe I will get to later on, but for now let’s just stick to the Rangers shall we.
From the start the Rangers looked uninterested in this game, giving up another early goal and playing from behind. Malkin scored just 1:24 into the game and from there it was downhill the rest of the way for the Blueshirts. The absence of Captain Ryan Callahan was obvious throughout the game when there was no traffic in front of Tomas Vokoun allowing him to save all 28 shots he faced. Everyone knows when you are playing the Penguins the way to beat them is throw them off their game, by hitting their two stars Crosby and Malkin, early and often getting inside of their heads and frustrating them. Yet other than a big hit on Crosby by Dan Girardi and Marc Staal hitting Malkin, the Rangers lacked that toughness, physical presence and frustrating style they played with throughout the season last year, which gave this team their Blue Collar identity. Nothing was more noticeable than at the end of the 2nd period Crosby was seen running his mouth at goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and not one Ranger retaliated in defense of their Star goalie. Not one hit, no one getting in his face, no one taking a run at Crosby in the 3rd period and instead the team just keeled over and played dead. This single non action taken by the team is the epitome of what is lacking from this group.
During the first seven games the Rangers have shown they have the talent to put up points and even show they can score goals at an alarmingly fast pace, but that is not going to lead to winning hockey. This team has shown defensive lapses, lack of discipline, lack of physical play and the ability to block shots, which was a staple of this team. The fact that the team has been called for 4 too many men on the ice penalties this season, shows that the team is lacking the focus and dedication to detail that we have come to know and love from this team. Those 4 penalties have lead to 3 Power Play goals, which is also a sign that the Rangers PK unit is struggling also. All of the things lacking from this team, one could say were qualities of players the Rangers lost in the off season and they would not be very far off. In this short season, there is not a lot of time to find the right balance, to find what is missing and an even shorter window to make the changes necessary to make this team successful.
How do you work on focus and determination? Is this the result of the teams success last season and thinking that they could just come in this season and not have to work as hard to get back this year? Is it still a matter of this team finding its way and building that chemistry? I will tell you this much The New York Rangers and Coach Tortorella are quickly running out of time on this season and if they don’t figure it out fast this team could be on the outside looking in when the season ends in late April.