The Rangers did not play a bad game, as a matter of fact at times they looked like they were dominating, but Marty Brodeur was up to the challenge saving 24 of 25 shots. Chris Kreider scored the 1st regular season goal of his career and fellow rookie JT Miller looked impressive in his first NHL game. Playing without Ryan Callahan again, who practiced today in a white jersey not the yellow (no contact) jersey, and Dan Girardi who was a late scratch, due to what the coach called being banged up, you knew this was going to be a tough game for the short handed Rangers. The Rangers are now 4-5 on the season and there are some alarming factors that have played into this record.
The Rangers Power Play or Powerless Play was 0 for 5 last night and is now 3 for 35 on the season, ranking their PP last in the NHL. This is a huge problem for a team with as much talent as the Rangers. Here is what I noticed to be the problem, they don’t shoot the puck enough on the power play and there is never anyone in front of the net screening the goalie. They pass too much and the defense gets into the passing lanes and gets the puck out of the zone. There is no QB on the Rangers power play, there is not one player who orchestrates and creates chances. Does this fall on Head Coach John Tortorella or does it fall on Asst. Coach Mike Sullivan? Sooner or later someone is going to have to be held accountable and it looks more and more every game that the problem is the system the Rangers are playing on the power play is inefficient, as it has been for the past few years.
Let’s not just get hung up on the power play being the only issue for this Rangers team, there are other issues right now. Tortorella said in his post game interview last night that some of the guys look “Scared and Tentative” he didn’t name players specifically but if you have been watching the games you know exactly who he is talking about. Starting with Brian Boyle, who has not been the same player since he sustained a concussion in the playoffs last year. He is not using his big frame in front of the net screening the goalie, where he should be and he is not playing the physical style he needs to in order to be successful. Gaborik and Nash get paid to score goals, yet they are not scoring, the problem here? They are not shooting the puck enough. In order to score you have to shoot the puck its hockey 101, yet Nash is trying too hard to be the team player, understandable being the new super star on the team, but dude seriously It’s time to stop worrying about whether or not your teammates are going to be upset that your shooting too much and start earning your paycheck, before your grace period with the fans, runs out and you get booed right out of MSG. For a guy who is a perennial 30 goal scorer, and was traded for 2 players Ranger fans enjoyed watching, it’s only a matter of time before it happens, 2 goals and 5 assists is not getting the job done. Gaborik has 5 goals, 3 of which came in one game and 3 assists again not getting the job done. Brad Richards 2 goals 6 assists, those are not good looking stats for your 3 best players. Not one of them has hit double digits in points 9 games this season and the reason is they don’t shoot enough and no one is making plays. I know everyone wants to see these guys play together but it does not benefit the team anymore to play Gaborik and Nash on the same line anymore. It’s time to start putting together the lines that will create more scoring opportunities. Put Gaborik and Hagelin back on a line together, they played well together last season, put them with someone like Stepan who is a good passer and can get in front of the net and deflect pucks or gather rebounds. Nash and Richards can play on a line with Pyatt or Kreider; help both of these guys improve their games. The other key to this is to give these lines some time to work, stop changing them every shift, you are never going to get continuity that way. On the defensive side, can we be done with the Stu Bickel experiment? Send him back down to the Whale because other than fighting he is in over his head, and a waste of a roster spot. Michael Del Zotto is the other player that stands out as a liability right now; he has had 2 good games this season, but has been responsible for a few too many defensive lapses which have left Henrik Lundqvist hung out to dry sometimes against more than one player in front of his net. Maybe it’s time to put DZ at a forward position and see how that experiment would go, they tried it with Bickel so what harm would there be with moving DZ?
One thing is for sure, this is not the same Ranger team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Last year when the Rangers stepped out onto the ice there was no doubt they would be the more physical team, they would fight and win the battles along the boards and they would stand up for themselves and each other. It was that blue collar, shot blocking, sometimes cocky style that had Ranger fans excited to watch the team play every night, it was that grit and fire they played with for 60 minutes every single night that made the Rangers a favorite to win. Maybe the loss of some guys has contributed to that but the core of that team, what made them so successful is still intact. That style of play should not have disappeared, yet for some reason it has. If the Rangers want to get back to their winning ways they better find that swagger, that mojo, which made them favorites to win the Stanley Cup this year. Ranger fans are not giving up on their Blueshirts but they are growing more and unhappy with what they are seeing game in and game out, because this is not the Rangers we all know and love, these are the Strangers. The team with all the talent and the names, but the team that isn’t playing hard enough and isn’t playing tough enough to be called the Broadway Blueshirts.