The New York Rangers have stumbled out of the gate, going 1-4 in their first five games. As if losing four of the first five games wasn't bad enough, the Rangers have lost their last three games by a combined score of 20-5. This has, of course, lead to the entire fanbase panicking over everything and hurling themselves off the cliff over the first 6% of the season.
That's not to say there aren't reasons to be concerned, so let's go through what you should and what you shouldn't be worried about at this point in the season.
What you should be worried about:
The Goaltending -- This passage was written before the Rangers demoted Martin Biron to the AHL, but the point remains the same. The Rangers goaltending has been, well, just plain bad the first five games of the season. Aside from his performance against the Los Angeles Kings (which was also the Rangers only win of the year) Henrik Lundqvist has been remarkably human. Biron's play in the two games he saw action was so bad Alain Vigneault sent him to the minors. This was supposed to be an area of strength for the Rangers, and instead it's been one of their biggest issues.
The Defensive Confusion -- This doesn't just have to do with the defense, this has to do with pretty much every player who skated in the defensive zone the past three games. There's a reason the Rangers gave up 20 goals in those three losses, they were lost in their own zone. No one covered the back door, defenseman who should be relied on were beaten soundly and the team as a whole just looked confused. That's not necessarily an indictment of the new system, it's much more of an indictment of the players simply missing their assignments. As many have pointed out: These aren't systemic mistakes, these are mistakes professional hockey players shouldn't be making.
The Injuries -- We don't know how bad Rick Nash's concussion actually is. We know he's out, and we know he is still having some symptoms, but we don't know when he'll be back. Every single head injury is different. Nash was just put on the IR. He's almost certainly out Wednesday against the Capitals. The Rangers need him back and they need him back now. The same thing goes for Carl Hagelin. He's on the right track, and by all means he seems to be ahead or on schedule, but the Rangers miss him, and they miss him badly.
What you shouldn't be worried about:
The Goal Scoring -- It will come. The Rangers looked miles better against the St. Louis Blues, and might have won the game if not for a few goaltending gaffs. The Rangers power play has converted at a 23.5% clip, good for 10th in the league. That is also miles better than things were last year. The new system is passing the eye test in the offensive zone, the team looks so much better with the puck, but the finishing hasn't been there yet. Some of that might be from getting crushed 9-2 and 6-0 in back-to-back games (it's hard to find offense when nothing is going your way). But now's not the time to be concerned about the goal scoring. If the team is still scoring less than two goals a game in a few weeks, we'll talk then.
The Playoffs -- The Rangers are 6% through the regular season. They just finished a grueling West Coast swing that saw them go up against opponents who had a combined record of 21-5. It was the perfect storm. A long road trip (including the preseason), a new coach, a new system and some unlucky bounces. Oh yeah, and some pretty big injuries, too. The Rangers next opponents are the Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers. Their combined records? 3-12. Let's hold off judgement until after those games.
Alain Vigneault -- There's no need to worry about the Rangers head coach. Like I said above, the mistakes and issues the Rangers have right now are not totally systemic, they're just mental mistakes. Some of that is on the coach, of course, but not to the degree some of you think. Give him time.