14-15-6 is the New York Rangers record while playing in front of their home crowd at Madison Square Garden this season. Below .500 while playing in the World's Most Famous Arena. Below .500 while playing before some of the most passionate hockey fans here in the United States. It goes without saying that the Blueshirts have no excuses for the drought on home ice in 2009-10, in fact, the Rangers are the one of the only teams in the Eastern Conference, besides the Toronto Maple Leafs, that have such a horrific record at home. That is ironic since Toronto and New York are the number one and number two rated hockey markets in the National Hockey League.
There could be several explanations for the Rangers failure while playing at MSG. The first and most obvious that comes to mind is pressure. This crowd may be passionate, but along with passion comes honesty, and they, by all means, do not hold back from letting this team know how they feel. As we saw yesterday, they are not even afraid to let the organization know how they feel. That could definitely destroy the self-esteem of these players, but at the same time, they should use it as momentum. They are "professionals" after all.
The other factor, that many do not take into account, is the fact that opponents look forward to playing at Madison Square Garden. Now I am going to have to put you in the player's mind for a moment in order for you to understand this. Picture yourself as a rookie looking for an opportunity to remain in the lineup. You enter MSG, the atmosphere is electric and somehow you have the ability to silence 18,200 screaming maniacs with just one shot, hit, or altercation. To me, that is pretty damn motivational and a meaningful way to get your coach's attention.
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With that being said, why don't the Rangers look at it the opposite way? With just one shot, hit, or altercation, you could bring a packed house to their feet and raise the noise level tremendously. Yet this team still finds ways to come out flat at home to begin games, which results in those cheers that welcomed them to the ice, turning into boos that chase them off of it. That is simply inexcusable when you look at the situation the way I just laid it out for you. I do not care if leadership or the coaching staff does not know how to motivate the team, the prospect of playing in front of that crowd should have you raring to go regardless.
The lack of production at home is hurting this team in more ways than just the standings. First off, attendance has went down. We have heard the guys on Blueshirt Banter Radio explain to us how the Rangers no longer send them statements regarding the sellout streak after each game like they did earlier in the season, and for one reason: There are no more sellouts. Maybe it is a good thing they only play six of the final sixteen at home.
In addition to that, at the start of every contest, you can sense a feeling of unease in the stands. That is because the fanatics do not know what to expect from their beloved Rangers and no longer trust them. This roller coaster of a season has them guessing how many goals the team will lose by before they even step foot into the Garden.
If the Blueshirts think they can just get away with this and let it slide like they seem to do with the rest of their problems, then good luck making the playoffs and good luck getting season ticket holders to renew their plans. It just isn't happening. As we saw yesterday at the rally, fans are fed up and refuse to put up with the same old antics every season. And really, can you blame them?