Yes, the New York Rangers are back in town after a seven game road trip that spanned two continents, games in six different countries, and according to Andrew Gross of The Record, about 16,000 frequent flyer miles earned. And after one home game, it appears that the Rangers inability to make Madison Square Garden a home-ice advantage has returned to town as well.

Including last night’s game, the Blueshirts are 38-35-10 at home. Conversely, during the last two years plus their first five home games this season (3-2-0), the New York Islanders are 43-34-10 at home.

Referring to his .500 squad the coach said, “I think we’re a work in progress and we’re going to get better. There are certain parts of our game that I like, other parts that we need to focus on and improve. Every team goes through that and we’re no different than anybody else.”

You have to admit that statement pretty much sums up the state of the Rangers as they stand 3-3-2 after their first eight games. The interesting point is that statement was not uttered by John Tortorella, nor is the team in question the New York Rangers.

That quote is from Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault and was made to Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun on October 16 after the Western Conference champions had played their first five games.

My reason for using that quote is simple – the Rangers are going through the same rough patch that every team goes through. My concern is not with the results, but rather with the how the Rangers are getting there.

Larry Brooks of the NY Post summed up the problem with the Rangers in the lead of his Maple Leafs-Rangers game story, “The Rangers have done nothing yet to identify themselves as heirs to the 2010-11 Black-and-Blueshirts.”

If John Davidson were still broadcasting games for the MSG Network, he would remind fans of how teams struggle in the first game back from a long road trip – and they don’t get much longer than 16,000+ miles.

Personally I always felt that ”adage” was just an excuse for a team not getting the job done, but this year might be a different case because the seven-game road trip was not your standard long road trip. Even the “first-game-back-from-a-long-road-trip” blues was not standard.

After struggling to generate shots, never mind goals, the Rangers were flying in the first period and could have been up 3-0 if not for the two disallowed goals. Given how the Blueshirts lit up Jonas Gustavsson the last time he played at the Garden, the game could have had a far different outcome.

When you combine the disallowed goals with an inconsistent second and third period from Henrik Lundqvist, you have the recipe for an Opening Night loss.

What concerns me the most about last night’s loss was how the team lost focus – a fact that Tortorella and Lundqvist both readily admitted.

“I was a little surprised on a couple goals,” Lundqvist told Steve Zipay of Newsday. “I wasn’t as sharp as I needed to be mentally.”

In his post-game press conference the Coach confessed, “I think physically we were lethargic and mentally we were lethargic.”

Tortorella has gone out of his way to treat the Rangers European vacation as he would any other road trip in an attempt to prevent the team from using it as an excuse for a slow start.

You have to wonder did the Rangers globetrotting did take a lot out of them, is it just one game, or are the problems deeper than some expected?

While the Rangers did win three of their four games on the trip to western Canada, they didn’t exactly play awe-inspiring hockey for most of those games.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC.ca made an interesting point in an October 17 column about giving a team 10 games into a season to sort things out.

A few years ago, Friedman said an anonymous GM told him, “I believe in the 10-game rule. You don’t get a true sense of a team in the first 10 games. I don’t put too much into a hot or cold start.”

Recently, that GM amended his belief given the advent of points being awarded for overtime and shootout losses.

The GM told Friedman, “With the three-point games, teams can’t win the Stanley Cup in the first 10 games of the season,” he said. “But they sure can lose it that quickly.”

Given the Rangers penchant for life-and-death struggles at the end of the season just to make the playoffs, it would be nice to bank some points early in the season to lessen the pressure late in the season

SEAN AVERY

I have tried to steer clear of the Sean Avery Situation because it is quite the polarizing subject – which is amazing given that he is a third/fourth liner player at best.
I find it amusing how some Ranger fans have elevated Avery’s demotion to the point of it being on par with, or an even greater affront to Ranger fandom, than the waiving of Eddie Giacomin 36 years ago this Halloween and the trading of Brad Park and Jean Ratelle to the Boston Bruins about a week later.

It is kind of interesting that the pain that the pro-Avery fans are suffering is only matched by the hatred they have towards Tortorella for banishing Avery to the AHL. This is the same Sean Avery that 29 teams passed on before he was sent to the AHL. This is the same Sean Avery that 29 teams passed on when the Rangers claimed him re-entry waivers.

Does Avery deserve a spot on the Rangers ahead of the likes of Erik Christensen and Kris Newbury? Absolutely, but there are a million reasons why Christensen is here ahead of Avery and about 1.4 million reasons why Newbury is here ahead of Avery. If you substitute dollars for reasons, you have one answer as to why Avery is skating in the AHL.

Of course, the fact that Avery and Tortorella are like motor oil and water plays a big part as well. It is not the first time a coach has banished a player to the AHL for personal reasons and it sure won’t be the last.

Ranger fans should be more upset with Torts over his opinion on Paul Mara than on Avery. Given the uncertain future of Marc Staal, Mara fills the Rangers need better than Avery does and Mara is a much better solution than Jeff Woywitka, Brendan Bell or even Anton Stralman – who may or may not be a Rangers target.

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