- I will not mince words, these New York Rangers are hard to watch. The key word there is "these." The Rangers are missing Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin. Call it an excuse all you want, but it matters. That's three of your top six out of the lineup. Not many teams can handle that without any bumps.
- Now, an issue you can have is the way this team is playing without those big three. I don't agree Thursday's loss was one without heart, but the losses to the New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks certainly were.
- Still, you need to score goals and find some offense. Derick Brassard (more on him in a minute)? Not much, although he was better Thursday. Benoit Pouliot? Nothing. Derek Stepan? Nothing offensively on Thursday. Mats Zuccarello? Scratched.The defense provided zilch. That's a huge hill to climb there.
- Cam Talbot looked solid, no? Two goals he probably should have stopped, but he also made three or four fantastic saves. He gets really high marks from me.
- I've seen a lot of people get on Brassard, and I don't really agree with it. Brassard has always been a guy who needs a goal scorer to help him produce. His top assets are his vision, his passing and his ability to find space. I'm not saying he can't be better, and I'm not saying he shouldn't be expected to score goals, but when you're on a line with Pouliot and Zuccarello (with how he's played this year) it would be hard for anyone to create that much offense.
- For a moment, think about how different this team would look with everyone healthy. Here's what the top nine would look like:
Nash - Richards - Hagelin
Callahan - Stepan - Kreider
Zuccarello - Brassard - Miller
Swap Kreider and Miller for Pouliot if you wish. Or maybe even move Brian Boyle to the third line and have Zuccarello and Brassard on the wing. Either way, that top nine is in a different stratosphere than the top nine the Rangers iced Thursday night.
- Speaking of Pouliot, I want to touch on the hit. Was it a dangerous play? Yes. Was it intentional? Not even close. Pouliot even looked like he tried to help Max Talbot avoid the boards after he started falling. The five-minute major is justifiable, since regardless of what Pouliot intended to do, he still boarded Talbot. A suspension? I don't think so (which means he'll probably get a bazillion games).
- That loss is the exact reason I don't agree with sitting Zuccarello in favor of Brandon Mashinter. Mashinter brought some toughness and a good fight, but when you're sliding like the Rangers are I'd rather have the offensive creativity. Maybe it was a move that was meant to jump-start Zuccarello, but it was a costly one.
- The J.T. Miller no goal? I don't agree with it at all. That's not a distinct kicking motion. And there's no way in the time the puck was deflected to the time it hit his foot that he kicked it in. My biggest problem with the call? It really should have been one of those "the call on the ice stands" plays in my mind. It was a goal on the ice.
- And, then again, when it rains it pours. Nothing (and I mean nothing) is bouncing the Rangers way right now. And that's what happens when a team is sliding, injured and down on themselves.
- This is a time when I think Alain Vigneault will be able to make a mark. In my opinion, when things are going this poorly for a hockey team the room needs to be nurtured a little, not torn down. I don't know how John Tortorella would have (or did) handle this situation. I'm not in the room. My guess is Vigneault will be a little more gentle.
- This will be my last point. If you choose to believe the season is over and the Rangers have no shot at making the playoffs, that's your right. I tweeted about this last night, but I refuse to panic until the team looks this bad when they're healthy. The responses I got back that made the most sense? "What if the team doesn't get healthy for a while and they dig a hole so deep they can't get out?" Possible, of course. But eight games into the season is too early to worry about that. A four-game winning streak puts the Rangers back at .500. But I'm more positive than most.