During the course of a long NHL season, each and every team, no matter how talented they are, will put forth a lackluster effort on a given night.
For the New York Rangers, their most lackluster effort of the season came at the worst possible time. As head coach Alain Vigneault put it, they “pissed away two points.”
In what was their worst game since October, the Rangers got dominated physically and mentally by the Carolina Hurricanes in a 3-1 loss. Marc Staal had his worst game as a Ranger in front of brothers Jordan and Eric. Derick Brassard made blind pass after blind pass all night. Carl Hagelin still did not find chemistry with Martin St. Louis. And as is with most difficult Ranger losses in the past decade, Henrik Lundqvist was the only player that appeared to show up.
The most concerning question for the Rangers is simple: why did this happen now, in the thick of an extremely tight playoff race?
The Rangers remain in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 74 points. However, they are only one point ahead of both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers. The sixth-place team, the Washington Capitals, have 70 points.
Simply put, the Rangers cannot afford an effort like this again. One no-show performance could mean the difference between being in 2nd place in the division staring at home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, or not being in the playoffs at all.
Perhaps this loss will serve as the wake-up call the Rangers need to remind themselves they have little room for error with 16 games remaining. Or is it an omen of something worse to come?