Since the Rangers loss to the Penguins Sunday night, which dropped their record to 0-2-0 to start the season, I've received a ton of e-mails, tweets and Facebook messages from readers asking me to talk them off the ledge.
While I can say for sure that if you think the season is over after just two games, you're dead wrong, I do have some legit concerns about the state of the team.
It's not so much that they're losing, it's how they're doing it. One thing you could always count on from last year's Rangers team was their battle level. They didn't win every game, but their opponent knew going in they would have to fight the Blueshirts for every inch on the ice.
They forechecked hard, threw themselves in front of every shot, had tons of energy and always stood up for one another.
And sadly I have yet to see any of those characteristics from the 2013 edition of the New York Rangers.
Did I expect rust? Absolutely. But what I didn't expect was a lack of "jam" as Torts likes to call it.
I mentioned it on the blog the other day, but you have to wonder if Sather lost too much of this team's guts during the offseason. Dubinsky, Prust and Fedotenko all do the little things that help teams win. And in two games, their replacements have not.
It also seems that the absence of those guys is negatively affecting those still on the team. While Boyle is far from being the toughest guy in the room, I was disappointed with his lack of a response to Orpik hit on Kreider. I can almost guarantee that if Dubinsky was on the ice with Kreider, he would have gone right over to Orpik. I keep hearing how close this year's squad is in the locker room, which is great, but I'm still not convinced they're ready to battle for each other on the ice.
Now does this mean players like Halpern, Asham and Pyatt can't fill those roles? Hell no. But it may take a little time for them to get comfortable in a new system and doing things the "right way."
And while the defense looks like a shell of its former self (just 26 blocks in the first two games), with the exception of Lundqvist, that unit, which returns everyone from last season, is that last thing I'm worried about.
My biggest concern, however, is that the players who put everything on the line physically and mentally last year, might be burned out. I know they had an extended vacation, but it's not easy to bring the intensity needed to play in Torts' system every night. And you have to wonder if these guys are willing to do it again. The blocked shots, the tough forecheck, the suffocating defense. Do they have it in them to literally sacrifice everything again?
I think they do. Last year's success was a direct result of those sacrifices and the players know it.
So chin up Rangers fans, two loses to open up the year, does not a season make. There's more than enough talent and character for this team to make another run at Lord Stanley's Cup.
I dont think we will see the exact same style the team played last year. We have offensive firepower and Torts will prob model his team after that. Maybe you'll see grinding on the 3rd,4th lines but up top is going to be a lot of drop passes, long passes etc. The only thing is the lines haven't gelled yet so you constantly see Richy dropping off passes to the defenders. It will change with a few more games & Barnum and Bailey wont be the greatest show on earth @ the garden!.
I not per say "worried" as much as concerned. I know they can turn it around, but I am concerned about Hank. He has become so commercialized with his line of clothing, his modeling, his guitar, his website and late night appearances on talk shows. I don't recall him being pulled from a game last season. I think he needs to focus on 1) being a father (let's face it that is more important than anything) and 2) being the best goalie he can be. He has already proven he has the skills. I love Torts. He will break this team down to build them up again. Something clicked last year, and it better this year as well. SO close yet so FAR. I love the Rangers, always have always will. I think they are so much better than they are showing they are. It's only 2 games, but with a short season those 2 games matter. Hopefully, a day of rest followed by practice today will make them ready for the Bruins tomorrow night. I am excited to watch it. Hope they come out with fire in their hearts.
Good God I am so tired of people lamenting about the losses of Dubinsky, Prust, and Feds after 2 games. Really?? Wanna trade Nash back to Columbus for Dubi, Anisimov, and Erixon so Dubinsky can stick up for a teammate by getting his face pummeled? And why don't we just throw $4M for 4 years at Prust so we can bring him back to fight and throw some body checks. And Feds, seriously?? All last year, people were saying he was slow and should have been benched in favor of kids from the Whale, now all of a sudden he's the next coming of Bob Gainey! Torts had less than a week with these guys and was rightly being very tentative so he didn't hurt them after a very long lay-off. Saturday and Sunday were the first times they actually had to face someone trying to knock their heads off. And to be fair, 9 Boston players (including Chara, Seguin, Rask, Ference, Seidenberg, Krejci, and Bergeron) all played in Europe during the lockout. Pittsburgh didn't have a lot, but they are a dynamic offensive team anyway so guys like Crosby, Neal, and Malkin don't really need a lot of time to get their skills back. The bottom line is that Hank is in mid-season form, and the rest of the team will get there. If this continues through the weekend, then there is some cause for alarm, but hell, Philly and the Rangers are both 0-2. Do we really think there's a snowball's chance that they are going to finish 14 and 15 in the conference, or even out of the top 8? And in a 48-game season, the seeds probably aren't going to matter as much as they do in a regular season because every team will be battling for every game. Just calm down. It sucks seeing them suck so much, be we all know they are better than this and they will show it! Let's Go Rangers!
They showed a little "jam" at the end of the Home Opener. Hopefully that will carry over to the next game. They did start 0-3 last year. Not worried at all.
Remember how they played preseason last year and their first games in Sweden? This time there is no preseason so it'll take a while to get comfortable I think. But in the end they'll get on their way ^^
I agree they'll be alright.Timing was a noticable thing in the way Rangers played last year- deadly fast goals from a bounce or rebound,nice fast passes followed by a quick wrist shot.That ain't happening now, with the exception of Nash.See all the stupid blind passes that don't click, the failure to avoid stick checks, giving the puck away,failure to get out of their own zone.Once they get their act together, hopefully soon, these nagative situations can all change quickly.
I agree with all your points. I notcied a few of the Rangers seemed reluctant to get in front of shots in the first two games, but I also noticed that once they took one in the shin, guys like Staal and Boyle started doing it more, it was like they just needed that first one to remind them that the pain is only temporary.
I was really concerned watching Boyle's post-game intverview after the Pens game. He looked, and sounded, drained. And not just physically, but emotionally. The Canadiens should start asking Sather for a trade because I don't think Boyle is half the player he was without Prust around.
During the 1-week training camp, a lot of the new guys like Pyatt, Halpern, and even Kreider, just kept talking about keeping their heads down, and doing what they can to help and earn their spot. I don't think they realize that they need to do more than that. They're not just plugging holes in a line-up, they're filling voids in this teams identity. These guys, Kreider included, need to realize that they're all here to be difference makers.
One last point, A lot of writers think the Rangers will benefit from the lack of travel (2nd least in the league, I believe), but I really think that going to Europe last year and then being on the road during MSG Construction helped that team bond and become a unit. No one will be stumbling on an old beat-up fedora in their trunk on the way back to their apartment from MSG this season.
I think this team has plenty of potential, this year, and going forward, but it's also a reminder of just how special last years team was, and what a gift it was to us as fans to get to be part of it.
I don't think they could afford more penalties by getting into more fights..Boyle did the right thing there. They were down 3 games at start of last season too...not worried...our Rangers will turn it around!
@gravey94 All fair, but as I stated above I can deal with them losing, but they don't have the same identity so far. Can it change? Sure, but being rusty shouldn't affect a team's effort.
@johnnyb3910 Good point regarding travel.
@KevinDeLury Agreed, but I really think those 1st 2 games will serve as a wake up call...or Torts' foot up their asses will, one or the other!