The New York Rangers have had a rough start to their season, and things have not gone as planned. The optimism that surrounded the team during the offseason has slowly faded, and there is a reason for fans to be concerned.
The Broadway Blueshirts have won only two of their seven games played, and they have been ravaged by injuries. Although things look bleak, is there a silver lining for the Rangers in this situation?
Fans may not have a reason to be hopeful right now, but there is a huge silver lining, and an opportunity for the team to show its true colors over the next few weeks. The Rangers have historically been an underdog team that's had to fight and claw to be successful.
The most recent example of this came during the John Tortorella era, wherein the Rangers showed the ability to grind out victories by hitting and blocking shots. Due to injuries suffered by Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin, the Rangers are missing one third of their top six.
This has forced Alain Vigneault to try different line combinations to get the most out of the roster, and it will also force the Rangers to go back to playing a style they are comfortable playing.
Early on Vigneault was pushing a system that promoted offense and puck possession, but right now the Rangers don't have enough skilled players to execute this style effectively.
For that reason, the Rangers will likely start playing more physical two-way hockey, because it fits the style of the current roster.
Players like Derek Stepan, Dominic Moore, Brian Boyle and Benoit Pouliot can play this type of hockey and will need to get their games going if the team is going be successful.
The Blueshirts just recalled Chris Kreider, and the transaction illustrates just how desperate the team is for offensive players.
Although the Rangers will go back to playing a more offensive style when Nash, Callahan and Hagelin return from injury, the current roster has a huge opportunity in front of it.
Wayne Gretzky once said, "Ninety percent of hockey is mental and the other half is physical." Right now the Rangers have the opportunity to build a winning mentality with a depleted roster.
If the Rangers can find ways to win with this current roster, they will be unstoppable once their stars are healthy and in the lineup, even though they currently have some players who are getting the job done.
Brad Richards has had an amazing start to the season, but he can't be the only player to get the job done. Right now Richards is the Rangers' only consistent offensive threat. Through seven games he has scored four goals and added three assists for seven points.
He also has a plus-minus rating of minus-two and leads the team with 30 shots on goal. This is an alarming number, because Richards only had 110 shots last season, but is on pace to finish the season with a career-high 351 shots.
Another silver lining for the Rangers is that they started the season with a very tough schedule. In addition to a normal training camp, the Rangers had a second training camp in Banff, Alberta, and a preseason that featured a number of games on the West Coast.
The Blueshirts are about to complete a nine-game road trip, and it has been evident that the constant travel has been taxing. It is not an excuse by any means, but logic would say that the team will start to play better once the players are rested with a normal schedule that balances home and road games.
Right now the Rangers have hit the trifecta for failure. They have been impacted by injuries, they have had a tough schedule and they have been playing sloppy hockey. Things look very bad right now, but there is enough reason to believe that the Blueshirts can weather this storm and become a successful hockey team.
Henrik Lundqvist is a slow starter, but he should be heating up very soon. The Rangers blue line also won't continue to break down, because their defensemen have illustrated in the past that they are among the best in the league.
The Rangers getting better should coincide with them getting healthy, and that combination of variables should allow the Blueshirts to show the world what they are capable of. The Rangers are lucky to have an 82-game schedule to figure things out; in the end they should be just fine.
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