Losing Streak: Back Away From the Cliff...
The Rangers are 0-4-1 in their last five games and are 3-6-1 in their last ten games. This is the longest losing streak the team has had all season long and it easily also one of the most frustrating stretches of games in recent memory. Six of the last seven games for the Rangers have been decided by a single goal, the only exception was losing 2-0 to Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens. Something we have to keep in mind is that losing streaks happen, to the best and worst of teams, and the New York Rangers are no exception. Join me for more after the jump...
So what reason is there to be calm and not start throwing ourselves off of buildings like lemmings? To borrow from HBO's 24/7, no team is as bad as it looks during its worst stretch in the season and no team is as good as it looks during its best stretch of the season. There is little question that the team is in the middle of one of its toughest stretches of the season, but that is no reason to panic. There are several things we should all take into mind about the losing streak and how the team has performed in the last five games.
The team has a significant influx of players returning from injury; Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Erik Christensen, and Vinny Prospal, who might not yet be one hundred percent in terms of their conditioning. We seemed to find a way to get the job done when half of the roster consisted of call-ups from the Connecticut Whale but that is because the attitude of the team shifted to accommodate for the injuries. ‘Injuries are no excuse' became the attitude of the banged-up team full of guys like Brodie Dupont, Chad Kolarik, and Kris Newbury. If the Rangers found a way to win games with a roster full of guys like Kris Newbury there is no reason why they can't get their act together and start winning with a team that is closer to one hundred percent healthy.
The fact that seven of the last six games and four of the last five losses have been decided by one goal should tell you a lot about the character of the team. The one loss that wasn't decided by one goal was theoretically a one goal game because the second goal for the Habs was an empty-netter by Tomas Plekanec. The Rangers find a way to stay in games and are rarely out-worked by the opposition. Although the fact that they stay in most games and manage to claw their way back into many games after being behind may be all the more heartbreaking for us we should recognize how it reflects the character of the team. Monday's disheartening loss to Detroit had some of the sting taken out of it when Brandon Dubinsky put the game back into reach with a goal in the last five minutes of play. Would we have seen that from last year's team? I am not sure we would have.
Another reason not to panic is the way John Tortorella is handling the losing streak. He has been very calm and reserved in post-game interviews and other than saying that the team needed better play out of Henrik Lundqvist has been pleased by his team's work ethic and play. After Monday's loss to Detroit Torts had this to say:
"I still think for a number of minutes we did some good things," said Tortorella, who added: "I'm not worried about the team, as far as their work habits. We'll grind through this."
There are some things that need improvement; at the top of that list is the play of Marian Gaborik and the powerplay. These two issues are correlated as John Merrigan pointed out earlier this week. Gaborik has been held scoreless in fifteen of the last seventeen games and has seen his ice time start to decrease, logging only 14:38 against Detroit on Monday. The Rangers are three for thirty-one over the past eight games on the powerplay. If that doesn't set off alarm bells I don't know what does. There are plenty of proposed solutions to the powerplay but it comes down to the fact that the Rangers need to simplify the powerplay and simply get shots on net. Marian Gaborik hits the nail on the head (better than he can hit the net lately) when he said, "We just have to make simple plays and shoot the puck." The performance of the powerplay really has nowhere to go but up at this point, and we can only hope that the team will be working on it before Friday's game against the Atlanta Thrashers. The play of the Rangers sometimes-invisible sniper likewise cannot get much worse for a player that has as much skill as he does. We can only hope that he gets motivated to start making a positive impact for the team, he does little good for us when he is riding the pine but really that is where he has belonged as of late. Gaborik is the epitome of snake-bitten right now; we can only hope that he snaps out of it as soon as possible. The Rangers need him.
As tough as the losing streak has been the Rangers still find themselves in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and have a chance to create some space between one of the teams that is nipping at their heels on Friday. The Thrashers are 2-5-3 in their last ten games and have been struggling as of late. There is no denying that they are a good team with a lot of talented players but the Rangers have to not show them too much respect and play a tough, grind-it-out, road game in Atlanta on Friday. It's important to remember this; no team is as bad as they look during their worst stretch of the season. And even during an 0-4-1 stretch the Rangers haven't looked that bad.