With the opening of the doors to the dressing room post-game last night came news that Tom Renney was giving his team a previously unscheduled off day today, suggesting any of the following:
A) The team is physically banged up and needs a day of rest.
B) The team is mentally and emotionally banged up and needs a break from the rink.
C) The coaching staff and upper management needs a day to construct a new plan before things get even worse.
D) All of the above.
I don’t know the answer, although it’d be worth askingÂ tomorrow. It’s true there are only so many line rushes and defensive zone coverage drills a team can put itself through in practice. At some point it’s just a matter of execution in a game, and obviously right now, that part is lacking.
If you look at the Lightning’s first two goals last night — even with Fedor Tyutin’s mindless deflection past Henrik Lundqvist — you saw an opponent rotating the puck in the offensive zone enough to eventually find the Rangers overcommited to one side of the ice.
As Renney said,Â players are almost trying too hard to make the right defensive play that they’re being caught out of position. I believe this is true. I also believe the team is perhaps so focused on its defensive responsibilities that the necessary instinctive parts of their games have been compromised in the process.
All of this points to a team that right now lacking a certain intangible quality — confidence, composure. Whatever the word is, it’s not far off. But it is enough out of the Rangers grasp right now that it’s costing them crucial ground in the standings, and last night, the frustration was palpable.
Some other notes:
<li>A big topic of conversation last night was Renney’s use of his HBO line to match the Lightning unit of Vincent Lecavalier, Vinny Prospal, and Martin St. Louis.
Bear in mind that’s the same tactic the coach has employed successfully against Tampa Bay dating back to last season. The difference is the Rangers took early leads or were at least tied in those games, and were then content to shut down that unit at any cost. But when the Rangers fell behind early last night, the HBO’s heavy ice time came at the expense of the players who could get them back in the game, namely Jaromir Jagr, Scott Gomez, and Chris Drury. It wasn’t an issue by the third period. And of course, that’s when the Rangers made their surge.
<li>Brendan Shanahan was able to play last night because team doctors and trainers deemed he couldn’t do any more damage to his knee. It was a welcome addition for the Rangers during their string of third period power plays. But at even strength, Shanahan didn’t have much to give, and he didn’t spend any time killing penalties.