The New York Rangers (13-13-1) are just 27 games into the 2009-10 season, yet many fans are beginning to lose all hope for their beloved Blueshirts.
After watching the Rangers' last three games—where they have been outscored by an 18-6 margin—who can really blame them?
The inconsistent Rangers were dominated by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and then were swept in a home-and-home matchup with the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
As stated in a previous story, the home-and-home matchup with the Penguins was an important test for the Rangers...to see if they can compete with one of the top teams in the NHL. Unfortunately, they failed that test and proved that their 7-1 start to the season was nothing more than a fluke.
The Rangers have just three wins in their last 10 games and continue to fall further down in the Eastern Conference standings.
During this low point of the season for the Rangers, they have lacked an ability to play a complete game, a similar problem when compared with former head coach Tom Renney’s Rangers from 2008-09.
"We’re searching for wins, we’re searching for us to play a complete game," Vinny Prospal said. "It’s in us. We almost did it tonight [Monday night's game]. We seem to make bad mistakes at crucial times. With all due respect, I don’t think they were much better than us."
Tortorella's conditioning system, which was raved and ranted about at the start of the season, seems to be nothing more than a myth now. In some games the effort is there, while others it simply isn’t.
Even more concerning has been the offensive play for the Rangers. The inability to score goals and receive secondary scoring has haunted New York through its first 27 games of the season.
Marian Gaborik continues to be the only player who can score on a consistent basis, but not even Gaborik can do it alone. In 25 games, Gaborik has scored 21 goals and contributed 16 assists for a total of 37 points and a plus/minus rating of eight.
With the exception of Gaborik (and Vinny Prospal who has 26 points in 27 games), the Rangers just can’t seem to find the back of the net. In the last 15 games, the Rangers have scored three or more goals in a game only four times.
As the Rangers continue down this dangerous path, it will be up to Henrik Lundqvist to steer the team in the right direction. But even Lundqvist hasn’t played his best hockey lately, giving up soft goals and allowing that momentum changing goal.
Though his GAA. remains a solid 2.74, his record is disappointing and stands at 11-10-1. Lundqvist has allowed four goals in a game in three of his last four starts.
Lundqvist is no stranger to this situation (playing for a team that doesn’t know how to score goals) and it will be all the more important for King Henrik to keep his head straight during the tough stretch awaiting New York in December, along with the grueling Olympic break later in the season.
Lundvist's play will make or break the Rangers' season and playoff hopes.