The New York Rangers chose to carry last year’s “This Is New York …” campaign into the 2013 season. The sentence is typically completed with such words as “intensity” and “passion” that describe the team’s style of play.
What we’ve been treated to so far is not the “New York Hockey” that Rangers fans have grown accustomed to. Thursday night there was more passion, intensity and fight (and I do mean the actual physical sense) in the crowd than there was down on the ice as the Rangers played an uninspired sixty minutes and were shut out by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Just when you think they might be on their way to being the Rangers we came to know and love last season – the tenacious, resilient group that was hard to count out of games, they come back with Thursday night’s performance, looking like a team so overcautious it leads to mistakes, a team that looks like it never set foot on the ice together before the opening faceoff.
Penalties continue to be a major problem for this team, none perhaps more egregious than ones for too many men on the ice they’ve been nailed for in three straight games, all resulting in power play goals for their opponents. It didn’t hurt them last Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers. Thursday night James Neal scored 28 seconds into the third to make it 3-0 Penguins and truly put the game out of reach. As Ryan McDonagh said in his post-game comments regarding clean line changes, it’s “simple hockey 101.”
Goal scoring, something no one expected to be a problem, is. John Tortorella broke up the big three in Thursday night’s game to try and find a spark, but it had as much success as if he created lines by randomly picking named out of the Broadway Hat. The Rangers have scored 16 goals in 7 games for an average of 2.29 per game. Marian Gaborik (5), Brad Richards (2) and Rick Nash (1) have accounted for half of them. Three of Gaborik’s came in one game. Sure, they are expected to carry the load, but supporting players such as Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan, need to be contributing as well. Chris Kreider’s early struggles, perhaps as a result of the bone chips in his ankle that have sidelined him the last 2 games, has further compounded things. No disrespect toward Taylor Pyatt, who has been the best of the free agent signings to this point, but would anyone have had him pegged as second on the team in goals with three at this point?
Throw in Ryan Callahan’s left shoulder subluxation for good measure. Already exposed with a lack of depth and seeking reinforcements, seeing him leave the game Tuesday night cradling his shoulder was deflating. There is no one player on the Rangers than can replace what Callahan brings, but it would be nice to see a little “Callahan by committee” – someone standing in front of the opposing goalie setting up a screen, someone banging a few bodies around. If they are going to be this lifeless without their captain in the lineup, then it’s a good thing he’s “only” expected to miss 10-14 days.
Over the next two weeks the Rangers will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning (twice), the New York Islanders (twice), the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins, all teams that have gotten their seasons off to solid starts. Only fifteen percent of the season is gone, so it’s far too soon to write the Rangers off. There’s plenty of hockey skill and sense on the roster. The bigger question might be if there’s enough New York drive and grit to go along with it.
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About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927