In the midst of the Rangers’ seven-game winning streak, head coach John Tortorella stated, “We’re teetering on going the wrong way here.” And man, was he right.
The Rangers did more than teeter against San Jose—they plummeted, crashed, and burned. Their poor play finally caught up with them. They can come out on the winning side against a team like Toronto while being outplayed, but not against an upper-echelon team like the Sharks.
As the third period went on, I thought I was reliving the Giants-Saints game. How did Drew Brees end up with a hat trick?
The Rangers are taking way too many penalties. In the first nine games of the year, they’ve been shorthanded a whopping 49 times, which is third worst in the league. The good news is that their penalty killing is again one of the best in the league. But it’s hard to control the game and score goals when player after player is marching off to the penalty box. More discipline is needed.
Part of the problem seems to be that for an attacking-style team, they haven’t been doing a lot of attacking. They spend a huge chunk of the games in their own end, back on their heels. Their aggressive forecheck has tailed off, and they’re getting beaten to the puck.
Another issue (which may not go away) is the lack of toughness on defense. They get pushed around and manhandled around the net. Most of San Jose’s goals came when the puck was right in front of the net, not from outside shots. The D doesn’t have the size or snarlyness to clear the crease.
Michael Rozsival and Wade Redden aren’t bringing much to the table yet again this year (though Redden has shown flashes of being less than the disaster he was last season). Marc Staal is the team’s biggest, toughest defenseman. Where’s Jeff Beukeboom when you need him?
But the recent poor play of the Rangers is all fixable.
Last season’s “success” was partly a mirage, with Henrik Lundqvist bailing them out game after game and needing the shootout to gain two points. That team simply couldn’t score goals.
Things are different this season, though.
This year’s edition has an offense, a good power play, a system in place with everybody on board, and a coach who seems to hold the players accountable. They have a good thing going, so all they need to do is tighten up, pay attention to detail, and stop the lazy play.
Foreseeing a game like Monday’s debacle didn’t necessarily take a soothsayer, but it makes you wonder what other events in the future Tortorella can predict.
Asked that question after yesterday’s practice, he forecasted sunny skies for the next few days with rain coming on Friday night, prophesized the Dow hitting 12,000 by the end of 2010, envisioned Community getting picked up for another season while Parks and Recreation would be cancelled by Christmas, and prognosticated that Manny will continue to be Manny.