They say that timing in life is everything. There is no clichÃ© that rings truer in the case of the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts second trip out west this season could not have come at a better time given their recent four game losing streak.
Losing four consecutive games in one thing, but the Rangers have found a way to compound on their misery. Not content with losing, the Rangers have barely put in an effort during the losing streak. While they managed to compete for some of their 4-2 loss at home against Pittsburgh, they did not bother to show up in back-to-back shutout losses to Philadelphia and Montreal and then went into the tank during their loss to Carolina.
The Rangers did not fare all that well in their last trip out west at the beginning of November. They sandwiched a win against Edmonton with losses at Vancouver and Calgary – scoring just six goals (four of them in their victory) while allowing 11 goals against. The Rangers followed their western trip by losing three of their next four.
The current trip to Phoenix, Colorado and Los Angeles leaves the Rangers facing teams four through six in the Western Conference. The Rangers return from their trip to host Washington as the Rangers play four of the next five games at the Garden prior to the Winter Olympics break. The lone road trip is to Pittsburgh to face a Penguins team that has beaten the Blueshirts all four times this season.
The fact that the Rangers are home for four of five games is not comfort for the red, white and blue. MSG has turned into a Garden or horrors for the home team. The Rangers are just 2-3-1 in their last six at home. Even worse is their home record since that western Canada trip in November as they Rangers have staggered to a 5-12-4 record.
Apparently the fans are not the only ones who realize that the Rangers current losing streak is more than just an opponent doing a little bit more than the Blueshirts. Here is what Sean Avery said following the Rangers 6-0 debacle at Montreal.
â€œNo compete,â€ Avery said to Steve Zipay of Newsday. â€œItâ€™s not about Xs and Os. Youâ€™ve gotta play 60 minutes. Weâ€™re not working hard enough, not being competitive, not representing your teammates.â€
Andrew Gross of NorthJersey.com speculated on the subject of President/GM Glen Sather’s post-game closed door meeting with his team following the 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Hurricanes.
“But several players said Sather told the team he believed in them and that they should stick together. Tortorella, in his post-game presser, said the thing he was most concerned about was the teamâ€™s ‘mental state’”, wrote Gross. “He also alluded to things ‘swirling’ around the team and warned teammates not to point fingers at each other. Very cryptic stuff. Hereâ€™s a guess: Tortorella didnâ€™t like Sean Averyâ€™s ‘no compete’ comment following Saturdayâ€™s 6-0 loss at Montreal.”
If Coach Tortorella is upset about Avery’s comment, how does he think the fans feel having to watch the Rangers go belly up night-in and night-out?
Maybe the Rangers need to take a page out of Andrei Markov’s playbook. The Montreal blueliner undressed goaltender Carey Price following the Habs 4-3 overtime loss to St. Louis. According to a TSN report, Markov told Price “If you are not going to play with heart, stay home. We don’t need you here.”
CTV reported that the two players exchanged a hug after practice on Thursday – thus reconciling the two players and the split dressing room. Whether it was heartfelt or staged for the media is not the point. What is most important is that the message was sent.
Sadly, any message being sent by management, the coaching staff or the players is not resonating within the Rangers dressing room. The Rangers inability (or unwillingness) to stand up for their teammates reached an all-time high (or low depending on your point of view) when no Ranger came to Marian Gaborik’s defense during his mugging by the Flyers Daniel Carcillo. The only fire the Rangers showed in response to the incident was Tortorella’s diatribe against Larry Brooks when the NY Post reporter asked the Coach about the Rangers lack of a response.
As and Ranger fans knows there is a history of animosity between Brooks and Tortorella. As any Ranger fans also knows, Brooks has a history of looking to stir up trouble while Tortorella has a propensity for a lack of patience with the beat writers, In this case, Brooks was merely doing his job by seeking an answer to the question everyone wanted to ask. One might argue that the Coach was merely doing his job by defending his player, but it seemed that Tortorella was taking out his frustration with his team on Brooks.
The stretch run to the Olympic break will go a long way in determining how Sather and the Rangers should approach the March 3, 2010 NHL Trade Deadline. With the NHL imposing a roster freeze as of midnight on February 12, there will not be much time following the NHL’s return on March 1 to reshape rosters. As a result, the Rangers final eight games prior to the break will serve as the proving ground for how the organization will move forward this season.