Here’s my story from lohud.com:
By Rick Carpiniello
Saturday would be a good time for the Rangers to start getting it together.
Why? Well, because there’s no time like the present? Or because sooner is better than later?
Truth is, as the Rangers play four in a row on the road, starting with Saturday’s game in Vancouver which begins a stretch of three in four nights in Western Canada, it’s still not panic time.
We know that because the Rangers never got to two games over NHL-.500 (where some losses aren’t losses, but all wins are wins) until Jan. 8 last season, and they ended up playing into the early hours of June 14.
If they go 2-2 on this trip, it won’t be the end of the world. If they do worse, even that won’t be a disaster. But these are four winnable games and the Rangers just plain need to be better.
They just plain need to be more consistent.
All we know about the 2014-15 Rangers is that they have been anything but, and that they have been less than they should be.
Search for excuses all you want, about the players who got away in the off-season (legit), about the lengthy injuries they had to their No. 1 center, their No. 1 defenseman and their power-play quarterback (legit), about this weird schedule that sends them off the grid for four, five days at a time (not legit, because it allows them rest and recovery and solid practice time, but a tough way to gain any traction).
The real problem is this: They’ve played very well in a lot of games against very good teams, and not well at all in a lot of other games, against teams of all calibers.
The crux of the issue is too simple to miss. Henrik Lundqvist, despite four shutouts and some outstanding performances, needs to be better. A lot better.
Ryan McDonagh, the captain, needs to be much better all the time. Marc Staal needs to eliminate his horror-show games. Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello need to get off the penalty highway and start putting pucks in nets. And everybody, one and all, need to figure out how to be better defensively.
The Rangers mostly haven’t wanted for goals this season, especially thanks to a stellar first 26 games (18 goals) from Rick Nash, whose expectations, from outsiders, were mighty low after last season.
Preventing goals, and playing the type of defense that begins with taking care of the puck when the Rangers have it, then getting it back when they don’t, allows them to use their advantage: Speed. When they are defending as they have, so often helter-skelter, they might as well have no speed, because it can’t be effectively used.
There are other problems. Faceoffs is an enormous one. That’s part skill/technique, but also will/concentration, and needs to be better. The power play, with Dan Boyle getting healthy, needs and should be better. The fourth line, minus Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett, needs to at least approach the effectiveness of last season’s bottom three.
But it all starts at the top. Alain Vigneault, who traded places with John Tortorella at this Vancouver stop before last season – which worked out far better for the Rangers than the Canucks — needs to figure this out. Along with Lundqvist, McDonagh, Staal, Kreider and Zuccarello.
Sooner would be better than later.
Photos by Getty Images.