The New York Rangers continue to tank, with a recent 7-3 loss to the Washington Capitals. The Blueshirts have officially reached rock bottom.
Once again it is not the fact that the Rangers lost, it is how they lost the game that matters…again.
Madison Square Garden was loud at the first puck drop.
You could tell that fans were restless for a win. It was easily the loudest that MSG has been all year, and the Rangers obliged fans in the first period.
The Blueshirts looked to be turning a corner with J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider finally driving to the Captials net. They were rewarded for their efforts, and the Rangers looked like they were on their way to cooling off the white hot Captials.
So there the Rangers stood at the end of the first period, up 3-1 on the Caps. And that’s when it all came crashing down.
The defensive lapses began, and you could feel the confidence being sucked out of the building.
That is just what the underlying problem is of course, a lack of confidence.
Talking X’s and O’s at this point is like preaching to the choir. We could dissect how once again the Rangers left Washington’s players wide open in the slot. But we’ve been playing that broken record for weeks now.
However, the fact that Alex Ovechkin (who is arguably the most dangerous scorer in the league) was able to just stand unabated on the far circle during the power play was infuriating.
Fans (myself included) were screaming for somebody, ANYBODY, to cover Ovie. The Caps power play strategy is the most predictable in the league: feed the puck to Ovechkin, and no one challenged him.
Of course you can’t keep a Ranger on number eight throughout the entire power play, but they could have at least challenged him to make his life difficult. Just brutal.
We could also discuss Henrik Lundqvist and how he looks so very average right now.
Not for nothing, but Hank needs to make a big save after the Caps tied the game at three, he just needs to. That fourth Washington goal was the proverbial shot to the heart for the Rangers and their fans.
Speaking of the fans, how about Madison Square Garden coming to life with a Let’s Go Rangers chant while down 7-3 with two minutes left in the third period.
If that doesn’t show you that Ranger fans are the best in the NHL, I don’t know what will.
Good for the Rangers’ fans still here with a loud Lets Go Rangers chant, even though this one is long over.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) December 21, 2015
This has been discussed before, but this team needs the Mike Keenan treatment.
In 1994 Keenan used a very calculated strategy to get his players to play up to their potential.
He sat players, benched them, pulled goalies, and even stopped coaching during games. This caused dissent in the locker room.
The result was a group of players that couldn’t stand their coach, and they banded together. The goal became proving Mike Keenan wrong; showing him that they were a great team.
In order to execute a strategy like this, coaches need strong leadership and Keenan knew that his leadership in Mark Messier was solid. Simply stated, Messier wouldn’t let Keenan’s words fall on deaf ears.
Does Ryan McDonagh hold similar qualities? While none of us are in that locker room to know for sure, the latest results speak loud enough.
So where do the Rangers go from here?
The Blueshirts play the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow which is a perfect opportunity to sure up the team’s defense, Tortorella-style.
That is what this team needs right now ironically, a small dose of John Tortorella’s defensive strategy.
The Rangers need to stop worrying about stretch passes and find that strong defensive “shell” that they executed so well in the past three seasons.
In fact, they shouldn’t even think about offense until they are able to fix the defense.
What is the worse thing that happens, another loss?
Zuccarello calls loss “embarrassing.” Kreider says, “of course it is, you want to give your fans something to cheer about.”
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) December 21, 2015
John Tortorella received a lot of slack for his defense-first coaching style, but perhaps he knew what he was doing. He demanded that all players contribute to the defensive side of play before thinking about offense.
Maybe Torts knew that if he let his team play wide open, they would be burned in the defensive zone. Perhaps it was Tortorella’s influence that helped the Rangers play such a strong defensive game the past couple of seasons?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines insanity as “extreme foolishness or irrationality”, and that is just what the Rangers coaching staff would be to let the same mistakes continue.
New York Ranger fans have been giving their team the gift of loyalty this season, because I guarantee that no other fan base would have been cheering on their team down 7-3.
It is about time the Rangers returned the favor.