MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NY – We’re a third of the way through this shortened NHL season and the Rangers cant seem to get any momentum going. The power play is as bad as ever and the team’s stars are all slumping in the scoring department. On Tuesday, the Rangers capitulated feebly to a tired Canadiens team that had played a tough game the night before. Last night, they played well and had their chances to win but ultimately lost to Ottawa in a shootout. Granted, the schedule hasn’t helped to get them going – they’ve already played Cheesy’s Bruins three times – but at least they won’t play them again this season unless the two teams meet in the playoffs.
So,right now the Broadway Blues are in the last playoff spot with 18 points but have games in hand on all teams ahead of them in the standings. Things aren’t as bleak as they seem but the Blueshirts definitely havn’t matched the rightful high expectations for them coming into the season. It’s time to stop jogging in place if they are to make a deep run into the playoffs.
Between the pipes, King Henrik is playing well but his goals against average is up and his save percentage is down from last season. But Lundqvist isn’t the reason the Rangers aren’t winning more games. If it weren’t for Lundqvist the Rangers would be propping up the Eastern Conference with Lazy Ovi and the Washington Senators.
The Defensemen have looked good: Staal and McDonagh have played really well… Del Zotto is improving and Dan Girardi looks his usual self… The penalty kill has been phenomenal lately… Sure, the group hasn’t contributed to the goalscoring as much as some would like but nobody on the team has. And there have been defensive lapses that have led to a few goals, but again, that isn’t why the Rangers are losing.
The real problem is up front. The team simply can’t score consistently. Captain Callahan plays balls-out every game – which is tough to do in hockey pants – but he can’t score consistently. Brad Richards looks completely lost. (We’re talking a soused Junoir Blaber in a Belmont bathroom lost). Hopefully he’s carrying an injury that he’ll shake off shortly and not becoming the second coming of Chris Drury.
Rick Nash had been one of the few bright spots on the team so far this season playing some great hockey. It’s rare to see a player that can skate around NHL defensemen like he can. He could contribute more by being a bit more selfish on the puck. And by staying healthy. Nash has been out of the lineup for the past two games with a mystery injury. He may meet the team in Montreal on Saturday but that remains to be seen. Let’s hope its not a concussion because the Rangers sorely miss his presence in the lineup.
Finally, the power play must get going. The PP has been bad for years but it has reached new lows this season. Most of the time the Blueshirts can’t even get into the offensive zone on the man advantage. When they do take the zone, sloppy passing and poor play lead to a dearth of scoring chances. Last night in Ottawa, they even gave up a short-handed goal. If hockey was like football, the Rangers would probably be better declining most penalties.
But… Even in this shortened season, there’s still a long way to go and plenty of time to turn things around. It all starts tomorrow night in Montreal. Thats it for me today. Come back for a MTM Exclusive, tomorrow.