We at NHTProductions have decided to take a break from the Five Things, because, well, essentially I'm not sure there are five points I can make about this team at this juncture. Instead, we'll try to see where this team got derailed.
Because, it's disheartening really - when you look at what the facts are presenting. Ignore the decline that was coming, for the moment. Look only back to Monday. A team that was in desperate need of a big effort got it. They scored, in bunches, and were able to do something a Rangers team has not done in quite a while - come back from a two goal deficit.
Their next effort was one of those play 'em close games, where the Rangers played much of it with only five defensemen, before going down to four during the final frame. A close affair, an unlucky goal allowed the tie, but they were able to hold down in OT and win in the shootout.
Friday night's game was the one where the car started to visibly shake. The alignment was off somehow. True, they were playing with (arguably) five young defensemen, including three rookies. But they were playing a Tampa team that has not looked super sharp in the early going. Vinny (oh poor Vinny) Lecavalier has not even looked like he realizes the season has started. And yet, super sophomore Stamkos breaks his four game scoreless streak against the NYRs, and notorious Rangers killer St. Louis pockets three assists, en route to a 5-1 drubbing. I'll be honest - that's not how I saw it playing out.
Last night's game, which I'll be honest, I watched in small intervals once the Penguins scored two quick to go up 3-1, was when car stopped shaking and the wheels fell off entirely. I feel bad for Valiquette, because unless he hasn't been "cheering" enough from the bench these last handful of games, he's really had no fault in this team going on their tailspin. Yet last night they dragged him right in.
The Rangers team had those five young defensemen and Rozsival. I'd be confident against them too. With no disrespect to the youth. Box score states that Staal and Sanguinetti were somehow able to be a +1 in this blech-fest.
Ignoring the defense themselves for a moment, what about defensive responsibility. Games that get totally out of control like this (remember, we've seen them from the other side, because that's pretty much what DID happen to Columbus in the Rangers super win last Monday and goodness knows the Rangers know how that feels) - I don't know what to think about them. I mean credit the fact that they were able to somehow score 3 goals, by defensemen ironically, but there is a major team disconnect that allows such bleeding to take place unchecked.
Again, as an isolated incident - a bad game, all teams have them - it's fine. But the second game in a row where your team is outscored so badly. Yet another game in a long line of disconnect games. That's disappointing. And that says more about this team than most of us want to admit.
I mean surely we don't want to take from the surface - and we can - that the reason the team has lost the last two games so glaringly is because Drury has returned and Redden is out of the lineup.
Surely we don't want to believe that as fact.
So it must be some other reason. Some other more plausible reason.
If I may hazzard a guess. This team, despite how close they are and how much more entertaining they were (at times) versus last year, is still not very good. Not very good at scoring. Not very good at keeping with a game plan - whatever it may be. Not very good at stopping the bleeding. Not very good at sticking up for one another (small incidents to the contrary aside).
And the players that were good last year (seemingly al year) - Callahan, Staal, Hank - have all struggled at times.
The players that were bad - Redden - have turned it around, if not to become good and certainly not great, but to become decent to steady.
Something weird is going on in Rangerland. Something very weird.
I thought I was dreading the Monday Columbus game after the non-effort versus Florida last weekend? Well, after this weekend's double dose of disappointment, I am really, REALLY not looking forward to the Penguins coming into the Garden tomorrow.
Not at all.