Hope seems to be dwindling for a team with so much talent. The New York Rangers lost again Monday night, this time at the hands of the last-place St. Louis Blues. Now 1-4-2 is the month of February, and I am beginning to wonder if it is time for Ranger fans to start thinking about next season.
New York is by no means out of the playoff picture; they currently stand as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. They were, however, leading their division at one point.
The Rangers are 2-6-2 is their last 10 games and have scored only 14 goals over that stretch. The offense is not clicking and the goaltenders have had some embarrassing games recently, including six goals surrendered to the Penguins and 10 to the Dallas Stars.
All cannot be blamed on Henrik Lundqvist and Steve Valiquette, however. They have combined for a 2.79 GAA this season, close to the median for the league.
The Rangers are just two points ahead of Florida and Buffalo, who both sit at 64 points. If New York continues this decline, it could be a matter of days before they fall completely out of the playoff race.
Should the Rangers miss the playoffs, it would be a disappointing end to a season that started off wonderfully for New York. They began the 2008-2009 campaign winning their first five games and achieving a 10-2-1 record for October. They continued with a winning record in November and broke even in the final month of the year.
They did the same in January, and to this point have won only one game in February. Things will not get easier for the Broadway Blueshirts down the stretch. Their last 18 games will be against teams with a combined 334-267-69 record and who average 61 points.
Since 1994, the Rangers have not come close to winning Lord Stanley's Cup. They have not appeared in the finals, or even won their division, since the 1993-1994 season. The closest they have come was a 1997 appearance in the conference finals, which they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1.
The Ranger organization hopes fans will not give up on the team, but the players have not given fans much reason to celebrate recently. The team lacks a face, a player who first comes to mind when people think of the Rangers. Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby, Washington has Alexander Ovechkin. New York needs a difference maker, whether they find one from outside or appoint that role to a current player. Something needs to be done.