New York Rangers

The New York Rangers are not giving fans reason to be confident these days. The Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Blueshirts by a score of 5-3.

By Chris Wengert

There was no net flipping from New York Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist today, but perhaps there should have been.

It’s becoming harder and harder to defend this team because it seems like whenever Rangers have an opportunity to beat a strong opponent, they falter.

Yes, the playoffs are a month away, and yes Eric Staal and Rick Nash just returned to the lineup.


But this team needs to start winning or else they could end up on the outside of the playoff picture.

RELATED: Mike Milbury Needs To Stop Trolling Blueshirt Fans

A lot of fans think that this theory is preposterous, but it could very well happen.

If the Rangers have a bad week or two, especially with their tough schedule, there is a possibility that they may not make the playoffs.

Here is a look at the Rangers’ upcoming schedule:

Courtesy of Rangers.nhl.com
Courtesy of Rangers.nhl.com

None of these teams are slam dunk wins,  quite to the contrary.

And that’s exactly why today’s game was so important as it could have created some separation in the standings for the Rangers.

Instead, what fans saw was a great performance from Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The Rangers came out strong in the first period, putting up 19 shots, but Fleury stood tall.

And instead of being rewarded for their strong efforts, the Rangers were treated to the first of what would eventually be two garbage goals.

If you really want someone to blame for this goal you could point to Lundqvist, who wasn’t able to square up to Hornqvist’s shot.

But in reality, this was just a goofy bounce.

The Rangers didn’t let up after Pittsburgh’s first goal, and Chris Kreider would eventually tie it after Kevin Klein showed some serious finesse with the puck.

Not only was Klein able to keep the puck away from Pittsburgh’s defenders, but he was also able to dish the puck to Derek Stepan who found Kreider all alone in Fleury’s crease.

Those are the type of goals that fans want to see from Kreider, as he kept his play simple by just going to the net. Nothing bad will come from putting a big body like Kreider in the opposition’s crease.

As today’s contest played on it became apparent that the Rangers were going to spend the afternoon playing a game of catch-up.

It’s a game that the Rangers have played all too often this season. When the Rangers do earn leads against strong teams, they have not demonstrated that they can finish consistently.

Whether it be another failed clearing attempt (really, this team cannot clear the puck), turnover, or inability to defend late in games, the Rangers just have not been able to correct the same mistakes that they have been making all season.

And how about that fourth line?

Rather than an energy or checking squad, the fourth line has become a graveyard of sorts for underachieving players. Today it was Kevin Hayes, Dominic Moore, and Oscar Lindberg who were benched in the third period.

Listen, sending a message is not a terrible strategy for head coach Alain Vigneault to exercise, but the question is whether or not the message is being received?

Kevin Hayes looks so lost at times, as if he is skating through a fog. I’m not sure what to make of him anymore. Chris Kreider hasn’t had a stellar year by any means, but he has at least showed glimpses of strong play.

Hayes on the other hand looks like a boarder line AHLer at times, which is mind boggling for such a talented player.

Speaking of soft players, the Rangers defense has looked Downy soft at times. They can’t clear the crease or move players out of the slot anymore. And why is Dan Boyle still in the lineup?

RELATED: Dan Boyle Needs To Take A Seat, Become A Black Ace

I’ve said on a few occasions that it is going to take the Rangers a little while to figure out which lineup works best, and I stand by that statement.

But the fact remains that the Rangers cannot afford to lose a handful of games, because they will have a long spring and summer to reflect on this season if they do.

Prepare for some serious anxiety Rangers’ fans.

NEXT: New York Mets: Ranking The Nastiest Pitches From The Starting Rotation

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Chris Wengert
I've been a die hard Rangers and Giants fan for as long as I can remember. I enjoy sharing opinions, and hearing from fans that love their teams just as much as I do. Henrik Lundqvist makes all of us look like mere mortals. E-mail me at: Chris.Wengert@elitesportsny.com