A couple days ago, after the New York Rangers were completely embarrassed in San Jose, the team held a closed door meeting to discuss their disappointment and look for ways to get back on track. In addition to the players and coaching staff, it was said President and General Manager Glen Sather was also in attendance for the after-game meeting.
Prior to Thursday night's game against the Anaheim Ducks, head coach Alain Vigneault sent concussed winger Rick Nash back to New York to rest, stating the star will miss at least the next two games. Then, the coach made drastic changes to the lines. Brad Richards, who has been the only real bright spot for the team so far (3 goals in 4 games this season), was moved back to center from the wing. Richards would be joined on the top line with wingers Benoit Pouliot and Ryan Callahan. Boyle, Brassard, and Matt Zuccarello would be the 2nd line. Pyatt, Stepan, and Fast would play on the 3rd line. Dorsett, Moore, and Asham would play on the 4th line. Stark changes were also made on the blueline pairings (Staal/Girardi, Stralman/McDonagh, J.Moore/Del Zotto). It would seem the attitude would change.
But, then the puck dropped.
Before the end of the first period, the Rangers were already down 3-0 after goals by Ryan Getzlaf, Jakob Silfverberg, and Daniel Winnik. By the end of the second period, the Ducks doubled their lead with a second goal by Silfverberg and additional scores from Saku Koivu and Dustin Penner. By the end of the game, the Rangers were shutout by the Ducks 6-0 - their second straight embarrassing loss. For Anaheim, their first home game of the season was a huge success.
The Rangers are now 1-3 for the season and go into their next game needing a win against the 3-0 St. Louis Blues. The Blueshirts have been outscored 20-6 so far this season, including 15-2 in the last two games (Ducks and Sharks).
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 31 shots in the losing effort, is now 1-3 for the season with an uncharacteristic 4.30 goals against average and a .879 save percentage. King Henrik has been the one constant for the Rangers over the last several seasons. He is 2nd on New York's all-time wins list with 277 wins. If the Rangers can truly get things back on track, Lundqvist could surpass Mike Richter and his 301 wins to become the winningest netminder in team history.
But, a number of those wins came through a defense first system, led by then-Rangers head coach John Tortorella. Of course, the team moved on from Torts and hired ex-Vancouver coach Vigneault, who is more open and offensively-minded. But, so far, not only has the offense not clicked yet, the team's defensive play has regressed. Counting the pre-season games, the Rangers are 2-8 with AV behind the bench.
"We've just got to figure out what the heck is going on and start being a hard team to play against, and get back to what we were successful at the last couple of years," defenseman Dan Girardi told the Associated Press.
When you look at the Getzlaf goal, it seemed the Rangers just gave up backchecking on the play. Getzlaf is considered one of the best offensive threats on the Ducks squad. To allow a player of that caliber to skate into the slot virtually untouched is inexcusable. The same could easily be said for the first Silfverberg goal. There was no communication between Rangers in the defensive zone. So, when the puck went behind the net to a waiting Teemu Selanne and two Rangers chased after him, it gave Silfverberg enough time to enter the slot and collect on the rebound off Selanne's shot. Winnik's goal was a great shot by a talented player, especially since he used Moore to screen Lundqvist's view of the shot.
Silfverberg's second goal of the game was very telling. Lundqvist skated out of the crease and dove to clear the puck out of the zone. This, after two of his skaters -- Del Zotto and Pouliot -- bumped into each other near the blue line. Lundqvist missed the puck and the result was Anaheim going up 4-0.
But, this has been the theme for this Ranger club so far. Yes, it is early in the season, but the lack of communication and the lack of heart is costing the Rangers early. If things don't turn around soon, heads will roll. Trades will be made. Although, honestly, the one to blame here is Sather. You could blame the players. You could blame Vigneault. But, no, the real blame lies on the shoulders of Glen Sather - the architect of this team.
Despite the presence of players like Asham and Dorsett, this team is too soft. Despite the presence of players like Zuccarello and Hagelin, this team is too slow. And it is especially glaring when the Rangers play teams such as the Ducks and Sharks. You would probably see the same result if the Rangers were playing teams like the Blackhawks or Bruins right now. You may even see it on Saturday night when the Rangers play the Blues. Those teams are faster, stronger, hungrier, and meaner.
These Rangers look listless. Allowing Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl to score his fourth goal the way he did and not making him pay for it was hard to watch. To watch Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart throw a check at your best player in Nash (dirty hit or not) and yet no Ranger stepped up to make Stuart pay until a feeble effort was attempted by Boyle in the third period. This is supposed to now be an offensive-minded team, but there's no offense. In fact, at times, the team has had many times where even transitioning up the ice from defensive zone to neutral zone to offensive zone has been a problem. It's hard to generate offense if you can't even make it up the ice.
Say what you will about John Tortorella, but the one thing you know about a Tortorella-led team, they work hard, they're responsible, they're consistent, they stick up for each other, and they play with pride. The Rangers need that to be their identity. Right now, they have none.