Three straight losses has the Rangers reeling. It’s early, and way too early to panic. But it obviously is weighing on the Rangers, who had won seven in a row — the last three of those just sloppy enough to morph into this downslide.
And now John Tortorella is delivering the accountability he promised when he was hired. He benched Christopher Higgins, and had him in a fifth-line jersey at practice Sunday. He benched Brandon Dubinsky. They both committed ridiculous turnovers in Saturday’s 5-4 OT loss in Montreal.
Accountability is one thing. Kicking people when they’re down is another. And I’m not saying Tortorella is doing that, or that he’s wrong or unjust. Not at all. In fact, I think he’s absolutely right in both cases.
I’m just saying he’s treading dangerous territory with Higgins. Pats on the back didn’t work. Will a kick in the butt help? Or will it deepen his funk and further erode his confidence? We will see.
I think Dubinsky can handle it, though I’m sure that soon some players will begin to wonder why Chris Drury doesn’t get a seat when he’s struggling as mightily as anybody else.
As you probably know, Phoenix is playing some pretty good hockey in the early stages of the post-Gretzky era. GM Don Maloney’s young team won four in a row before losing to the Kings on Saturday, including a win over Boston and an OT victory over Detroit. They were also the only team to beat Pittsburgh in the Penguins’ first 10 games.
So it isn’t just Lauri Korpikoski and Petr Healthy Scratch.
After tonight, the Rangers’ schedule toughens, with five of six on the road. That includes a semi-home game at Nassau Coliseum, then a trip to Minnesota, a home game against Boston, and then a Western Canada trip including the dreaded Alberta double-dip, once upon a time the toughest two games on every team’s schedule.
So my recent history has gone like this: I was at the Rangers’ loss to the Devils, then the Yankees’ Game 6 rainout, and the Giants’ loss to the Cardinals. Yipee! Fortunately for you guys, I have no plans to go to the Garden tonight because I’m sure I will be on World Series duty starting with the workouts Tuesday.
More later on. See youse.