The New York Rangers suffered a difficult loss to the Washington Capitals Friday night. A myriad of missed opportunities and one untimely mistake by Cam Talbot cost them a game against a team they are chasing in the Metropolitan Division.
On Sunday night, the Rangers will face the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that routed them 5-0 in their previous meeting. As the Rangers close in on the halfway point of their season, they need to demonstrate mental toughness and come out with a passionate, workmanlike effort.
The Rangers were victimized by two very early goals by the Lightning the last time they played them, and were effectively finished before the game even reached the first intermission. They cannot allow that to happen this time because if the Rangers panic, the Lightning’s skill players, especially Martin St. Louis, will not allow the Rangers any margin of error.
Henrik Lundqvist will be back in goal for the Rangers after taking the last week off. Assuming he is mentally and physically ready, he should be expected to be the Lundqvist of old, not the one that has struggled mightily in the 2013-14 season. If Lundqvist has yet another bad game, then one can start believing there will be a goaltending controversy on Broadway.
The top players of the Rangers, namely Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Brad Richards, absolutely need to make something happen in this game. If Mats Zuccarello, Benoit Pouliot and Carl Hagelin will be the only ones to provide any offensive firepower or physicality once again, it will be yet another struggle.
Half the season is effectively done for the Rangers. It’s time for them to demonstrate resolve and mental toughness following a difficult loss. If this team is going to let one or two bad breaks doom them, then perhaps they are undeserving of a playoff run. Sunday night is the perfect opportunity to disprove that theory.