When the New York Rangers were slated to be a preseason favorite as Stanley Cup contender, the expectations were for another smash hit on Broadway. How could this team fail with one of the deepest lineups in the game and the addition of superstar winger Rick Nash? Just lace up the skates, go out there and win…right?
A little over one third of the way into the season, it appears the blueshirts lofty expectations were nothing more than a setup for a major fall. Everything that could go wrong with this team has gone wrong.
After a slow start, the Rangers appeared to be getting their game together by putting together a solid run. They were starting to show signs of the team which finished second overall in the league last season.
It all began to unravel for New York when they blew a 2-0 lead at the Garden to the cellar contender New York Islanders. In the last three consecutive losses, the wheels have all but come off, with the team lying down and decomposing like a mummy.
The undisclosed mysterious illness to Nash and a banged up defensive unit have not helped matters. There is increasing speculation that Nash sustained a concussion on a hit by the Boston Bruins Milan Lucic on February 12. But injuries only tell a small part of the story for a franchise which has historically been downtrodden more often than not.
Rangers winger Marian Gaborik found himself riding the pine in the third period of Saturday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens due to unproductive play. Along with Gaborik, center Brad Richards has also been going through a dismal stretch this season and has also spent time in head coach John Torotorella‘s revolving doghouse. The Rangers can ill-afford to have Gaborik and Richards mailing it in night after night.
The most alarming aspect of the Rangers game is they consistently fail to generate sustained offensive pressure against the opposition. They have been plagued with poor puck handling and tentative decision making on the ice. With the Rangers power play faltering at 29th in the league, they are sitting ducks for any team willing to put the body to them and take them off their game.
The Rangers are in jeopardy of becoming one of those high priced underachieving talented teams in sports which inevitably ends up falling flat on its face. If they fail to make the playoffs and do not display some sort of pulse, there will be many questions about this team and the coaching situation going into next season.
For a team which was built for the present and not for the future, the pressure has intensified on the Rangers to start living up to their top billing. Whether they succeed in working their way out of the doghouse and into the big house remains to be seen.