New York Rangers
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The New York Rangers concluded their five games in an eight-day stretch with a record of 1-4. The rebuilding must begin now.

The New York Rangers, battered and dejected, celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the current Madison Square Garden in an all too familiar way. With a bad loss. The Philadelphia Flyers came into town, as they did 50 years ago, and beat the Rangers 7-4.

The Rangers have dropped four straight and 14 of their last 19, with all 14 losses coming in regulation. At 27-28-5, the Rangers remain in last place in the Metropolitan division and sit five points out of a playoff spot. With little answers to how to get the team to play better or who to turn to for help. The team has lost its identity.

Henrik Lundqvist described it perfectly to Justin Tasch of the New York Daily News, “It’s terrible,” Lundqvist said. “Absolutely terrible.”

All of the bad play cannot be blamed on Lundqvist, but his play of late has been questionable at best. Over his last 11 appearances, Lundqvist has a 4.46 Goals Against Average and has been pulled four times. He’s started every game of the Rangers’ recent stretch of five games in eight days and has started 50 of the teams 60 games.  With all the action Henrik has seen and how he has looked over this past weekend one has to ask: Has Alain Vigneault overplayed Henrik? The answer is a deafening yes in my opinion.

Now, the damage is done. Henrik is not only tired, but he has major doubt in his play over the last two weeks. “I have to be better,” said Lundqvist, “Obviously, there are a lot of mistakes. We’re getting deflections in our own net, they’re getting deflections in our net, odd-man rushes — that’s where we are getting hurt right now. I just have to start with myself, somehow find energy and confidence to play your game. It’s hard. I talked about it (Saturday) where you try to convince yourself you’re doing the right things out there. But it’s hard when you give up so many goals to stay confident and make that extra save even to be solid.”

The King appears to have been knocked off his throne, but not due to a lack of effort, heart or desire. Henrik, plain and simple, tried to do too much to get his team some much-needed wins and now seems lost in his goal.“You live for this,” Lundqvist said. “It means so much to all of us that when you don’t win, when you don’t get the result — we just have to work really hard to get that feeling that you need in the room to play your best. It’s not a good feeling right now.”

Mats Zuccarello’s take on the teams play.

Rangers’ forward Mats Zuccarello had plenty to say about the team’s play following the poor outing as was tweeted by WFAN’s Sean Hartnett.

“We are playing dumb defensively. Letting people beat us to the pucks, letting people beat us in front of the net, tips, and getting beat up the ice. They got some easy goals today.”, Zucc went on to say, “it’s been going on for too long. We have to be tougher in front of our net. It’s just not good enough.”

Zuccarello said the right thing. He was not holding back when he describes the team’s play as “dumb defensively”. The problem is that we have heard the same thing from different players all season long. Is there no one willing to take the blame and stand up to try to find a way to play a full 60-minute hockey game?

A person who takes responsibility. Who might that be? Well, the man who sits at the helm of this sinking ship: Vigneault.

Alain Vigneault needs to take responsibility.

When Vigneault met with the press following the game, he began with how he thought the game progressed from the first period when they had a lot of fight in them, literally and figuratively, to the end of the game when he thought they ran out of gas.

“It started off with old-time hockey, a lot of fights and a lot of goals. I thought offensively we had some good looks, defensively they got a couple opportunities there. Our guys battled. They tried hard. In the third, I mean no excuse, but we were running on fumes there a little bit with five games in seven days. Guys came out and tried to bounce back from our game yesterday and came up short.”

He was questioned if he thought all the action and loses were taking a toll on Lundqvist to which Vigneault responded, “this is demanding on everyone. It’s our job, you gotta come to the rink and work to get better and give your best shot and that goes for everybody and the coaches are there to push the players and that is what we are doing.”

Pushing to what extent? 50 starts for Lundqvist, playing two games in less than 24 hours this weekend with the same result. What are he and the team getting out of this? As you can read, not too many wins, that’s for sure.

Finally, Vigneault was asked about the young kids playing on the team right now, his answer is concerning, almost disturbing. Vigneault said. “Our young players are playing well. They’re playing to their strengths. Every team, at some point, has injuries and you have to find ways to win. And that’s what we’re trying to do right now. We’re coming up short, but we’re trying to find ways to win.”

Did he primarily blame the problem on injuries? Really because prior to the injuries piling up, I don’t remember a great run of hockey since January began. This coach has not and will not blame himself or the coaching staff for at least some of the problems. It’s absolutely ridiculous that he could believe he doesn’t the least share in some of the responsibility of the team’s failure.

As everyone has read, the traded deadline is next Monday at 3 p.m. ET. The Rangers are supposed to begin a rebuilding process which includes some major trades, but I have to ask: How can any rebuild begin unless the head coach is relieved first? If the organization needs a proverbial do-over, then start it from the top.



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