Rangers Analysis: Blueshirts Showing Similarities to Last Year

[Note by Jim Schmiedeberg, 11/22/09 3:32 PM EST Nick from Rangers Tribune has agreed to join the team here and we couldn't be happier. Nick is a terrific writer, and has a great eye for the game. We welcome Nick today with his first story, and are happy to have him]

Before I start, I would just like to introduce myself as I am new here on Blueshirt Banter. My name is Nick and I currently write on the Rangers Tribune and was asked by Jim if I would like to join the team here on Blueshirt Banter this past week. I did not even have to think about it because I knew what a great job they did on this site as well as the level of knowledge they both have of the Rangers and the game of hockey itself. Anyway, I am thrilled to be a part of the Banter family and am looking forward to interacting with each and every one of you while I am here. Thanks for your support.

Over the past few games, something has come to my attention when watching this struggling Ranger team. Much like last season when they were coached by Tom Renney, the Blueshirts are lacking urgency in their game, at least until the final few minutes when they realize that they need to get the game tied up. This has reminded me of the 08-09 season far too much for my liking, and it is quite surprising that this team is continuously coming out flat with a coach like John Tortorella, who has a rough and tough reputation around the National Hockey League.

Take last night for example. The Rangers were being out hustled for a majority of the game and were being beat to loose pucks. This had them down 2-1 late in the second period when they began to pour it on and get a forecheck going in the offensive zone. It was actually the line of Avery, Anisimov, and Lisin who were bringing the Garden crowd to life, and they came quite close to finding the back of the net several times but could not finish. What else is new?

This was followed up by the Lisin, Higgins, and Callahan threesome who also put great pressure on the Panthers, but once again, could not bury a goal. Both Ryan Callahan and Christopher Higgins shot right into the pads of a sprawled Vokoun when all they had to do was give the puck some elevation and they would have had goals. So the second period ended on a good note even though the Rangers did not score.

Now, you would think that after that explosive final two minutes heading into intermission that the team would come out firing right from the drop of the puck. Well, it was actually anything but that, as New York, once again, came up with nothing and were being out-played by the Cats. The lack of effort resulted in what would turn out to be the game winner by Nathan Horton of the Panthers. After a goal by Marian Gaborik about four minutes later, the Blueshirts began to pick their heads up and go on the attack. Despite some exceptional effort, the Rangers continued to try the same play where they would work the boards and attempt to get the puck to the net.....Clearly it did not work out too well. The team was not shooting much, and I think that is one of the differences between the seven game winning streak Rangers and the one win in five games Rangers, but that is not my point.

My point is this. In both the second an third periods, the offense did not begin to display any sort of life in their game until the last five or so minutes in the stanza. That is when thee began to panic and realized that they did not have much time to tie the game. Sound familiar to last season? You bet it does. The Blueshirts are presenting themselves as a lifeless, unmotivated club right now, and they are not going to get anywhere with their current frame of mind. I mean, even after Gaborik scored the goal there were shifts when the players showed nothing, but then Tortorella went right back to the Gaborik line and they would suddenly gain momentum and create scoring chances.
Continue Reading after the Jump.

So I talked with Joe Fortunato in length about the team at the conclusion of last night's loss and he brought up something that I thought would create some conversation here on the site. Last season, the lack of life from the Rangers was partly blamed on the fact that Tom Renney did not have full control over his team. So, for the Rangers to come out with a lack-luster effort after an opportunistic end to the second period really makes me wonder if John Tortorella has lost this team already. Now do not get me wrong, I am not saying that he has, because I obviously am not hearing what is said behind closed doors, but for the team to have no energy entering the third is quite alarming.

Tortorella preaches that the team must play 60-minute games in order to get wins, but in all honesty, if you have a coach that is supposedly "fiery" but cannot get his team going or grab their attention, then it is going to be quite a struggle to get them to play a full sixty minutes as opposed to the spurts of offensive that they had in last night's game, the Capitals game, as well as many others over thecourse of the season the season.

As the losses mount, this team becomes increasingly frustrating to watch, especially when you watch them in person as Joe and I did on Saturday. But hey, why not let out a little steam on my first post as an Official Blueshirt Banter writer? I can't even watch football to calm myself today because the Jets are pretty much done, so I guess it is just time to wait and see what the Rangers play like tomorrow when they host the Blue Jackets at MSG.