It should be a good thing.
This is the time of year that, if you've been bitten by the injury bug, you want to get your best players back healthy for the push to the playoffs. As a coach, you have to admire how well your team has fought through the period of time when you could look down the roster and count as many as nine of your players on injured reserve. You have to feel a deep sense of relief that the boys who got you here are trickling back to take regular shifts again.
Yet, the Rangers seem to lose as much as they gain.
Going into Friday's game against the Atlanta Thrashers, these Rangers have lost five in a row, during which they have gone 1-for-36 on the power play. This is a stark contrast to the team that, just two months ago, was vaunted as an incredibly hard team to play against.
That's not to say that these Rangers have abandoned their hard-working, blue collar mentality. If anything, they have stayed the course. However, there are a few mechanical issues that are holding the Rangers back.
In the last two games, as hard as they fought, they seemed to have difficulty capitalizing on easy chances. There were at least five occasions, between the game in Montreal and Monday's tilt against the Red Wings, that they were faced with a gaping net. Rangers forwards, although their bodies were in position to make plays, were unable to seal the deal. Upon careful review, this seemingly minor detail became evident. Whereas Rangers forwards were in perfect position to make a play, their sticks were not.
Let's talk about the final play of the game against the Devils a few nights ago. Dubinsky takes his shot that rings off the crossbar, and if Marian Gaborik's stick is on the ice and in position to make a play, the Rangers tie that game.
So, what has happened to the fiery instructor/coach, correcting mechanics on the fly? Maybe John Tortorella needs to go back to the drawing board next time he watches tape. Maybe it's something his assistants have overlooked.
Any NHL team that is successful during the final frames of the season needs to be able to capitalize on the power play. During Monday's game, the Rangers were on the power play for the final two minutes of the game, which included 45 seconds of a 5-on-3 chance. They were unable to convert that chance into a tying goal against Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who is not always stable in those situations.
After only converting one power play chance in 36, it's time for Glen Sather to turn some of the Rangers' depth at defense into a bonafide power play quarterback. Sather continues to work trade magic, dumping the other half of the terrible twins, Michal Rozsival, for Wojtek Wolski. Time for some more.
Then there is the issue of the slumbering giant Marian Gaborik. The fact is that Gabby will not match last year's torrid offensive production until Sather provides him with a true top-shelf center. As much as Rangers fans love Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, and as much as they provide the heartbeat of this Rangers team, moving Dubinsky back to center to try to ignite Gaborik, as suggested by Larry Murphy of NHL Network, is not going to work.
This team is not playing well during a time of the year that they cannot afford to give up any ground in the standings. Whereas Rangers fans a few weeks ago were concerned with how far their team was going to go in the playoffs, now the organization looks to be teetering on the precipice of playoff contention. That is not a place this team would like to be.
Time to break out the tape, Torts. And time to work those phones, Slats. Your team is in trouble, and it's ultimately your responsibility to fix it.
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