The New York Rangers lost another head scratcher last night, this time to Buffalo. At what point should we question this team’s leadership?
By Chris Wengert
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to defend that New York Rangers’ team who stepped onto the Madison Square Garden ice last night.
In front of their home crowd, and in a building where they have played very well this season, the Rangers put forth another mind boggling, lackadaisical effort.
So it is only fair that I echo a familiar sentiment, but this time to the players:
Really Rangers? Really?
As I stated prior to this game, the Buffalo Sabers are not a team that should have been taken lightly, but that is exactly how the Rangers’ approached last night’s tilt.
At home. In front of their crowd. With the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth.
If the Rangers played hard and just lost the game we would have gone along on our merrily way to watch some Opening Day baseball today. But rather than enjoy some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, Rangers’ fans are left wondering, “what is wrong with this team.”
And more importantly:
Where is this team’s leadership?
Leadership doesn’t just mean the captains, but the veteran players and coaching staff as well.
Losing is one thing, but being unprepared is a completely different issue.
Alain Vigneault‘s post game comments to MSG were telling:
“The results were not what we were looking for but as far as our readiness, I knew that our guys were ready and wanted to go out and execute and perform well. We spent a lot of time in their end but didn’t get enough good looks for the amount of time that we spent in their zone. It wasn’t by lack of readiness or wanting to do the right things or play the right way. We got behind the 8 ball, we battled hard to come back. We had a 5 on 3 at the end where we were a little off as far as finishing, we had that opportunity. Guys battled hard and we need to get ready for the next game.”
AV states that his team was ready, but after watching another awful first period you have to question how “ready” the Rangers really were.
Were players like Martin St. Louis and even Ryan Callahan that crucial to the Rangers’ past success?
I’m not talking about production here, but overall leadership.
Is there a guy in that room right now who can truly lift up the team after a first period like the Rangers experienced last night?
You have to wonder, because the Sabers scored before most fans were even seated for the second period.
Leadership is not only what is said of course, but what is demonstrated on the ice as well.
Great leaders can talk the talk, and walk the walk.
So where are the two players who should be the leading by example and in the locker room? Where are Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan McDonagh?
There are the shots that Hank used to stop:
Why is Hank down on the ice throughout this whole sequence?
If he had stayed square it would had made life much more difficult for Ryan O’Reilly. Instead, Lundqvist stays on the ice which opened up the entire top shelf for O’Reilly.
Those are the shots that Hank used to stop. Those are the saves that would have given Lundqvist’s team a much needed bail out.
But those saves are just not happening this season.
The same can be said for Ryan McDonagh, whose play has noticeably faltered after having that C stitched to his jersey. Kevin Klein isn’t off of the proverbial hook either, as this pairing was awful yesterday.
But watch McDonagh just glide into the frame following Ryan O’Reilly’s second goal:
From any player that effort is suspect at best, but from the captain of the team?
Henrik Lundqvist was pulled again, which ironically almost led to comeback from the Rangers, but to no avail.
I often wonder what goes on in Lundqvist’s head in these situations.
Hank is an amazing competitor, but sometimes his body language looks worrisome, because there are times when he almost looks like he’s giving off a “thats your fault, not my fault” vibe.
It may come in the form of a shoulder shrug, but I have also witnessed Hank screaming at his players after a goal. Being that frustrated by your team has to wear on a veteran like Lundqvist.
I’m still not in panic mode. If the Rangers were to win their final four games, these past two would become a distant memory.
Even if they win three out of four, they are in good shape.
But if the Rangers continue this downward spiral we will all be buying peanuts and Cracker Jacks before you know it.