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Once again the Rangers did not play their best game. Once again the Rangers found a way to win. But here’s the problem with this. In general I have observed the Rangers tend to go through a predictable cycle when stuff like this happens.

First, they put together a few wins in a row. They will win these games playing like coach Tortorella wants them to. They will forecheck hard, they will hit the way Cally destroyed Stamkos tonight, they will block shots, they will sacrifice life and limb to stop pucks from going to their net, and they will be led by their stars with the support players chipping in as well. Then, they will start to get a little cocky. They will maybe not backcheck as hard as usual. They will keep winning, and then they will say, you know what, I don’t need to backcheck that hard, we’ll win anyway. Then they’ll not chase a loose puck as hard in the offensive zone, saying, you know what, I stopped backchecking hard and we still won, maybe I can stop forechecking hard and we will still win. Then Henrik Lundqvist will have to turn into a God, and he will win them a few games. So a 2 or 3 game winning streak becomes a 7 or 8 game winning streak, but right now the Rangers will be playing very bad hockey only to be bailed out by their star goalie. The workload will then wear out a battered Henrik, who is forced to make pacts with (Miroslav) Satan to keep pucks out of the net, and he will start to falter. Henrik will start giving up some bad goals here and there, and all of a sudden, the Rangers who were winning while playing bad hockey, will start losing while playing bad hockey. They will go on an extended losing streak, and because of Henrik being so worn out from having to play like a God, they will lose a few games they should have won because their goalie has been overworked.

This is the precarious games the Rangers play, and I have seen it every single frikkin year since I started watching this team many many many years ago. Right now they are getting close to winning games they don’t deserve because of their goalie. They aren’t there quite yet, but you can see it starting to tip. It’s been 2 straight games where you can say, you know, we really didn’t play all that great, but somehow we pulled out a win. People will say, rightfully so, that good teams find a way to win when they don’t play their best. But what separates a good team from a great team, is not just finding ways to win when you don’t play your best, but to correct mistakes quickly, and to keep up the level of intensity, and execution that brought you here and persevere through the expected crash that can be creeping up on you.

Hopefully I am not the only one who noticed the Rangers lax play with the puck tonight. They were turnover MACHINES. They blocked a lot of shots so the shot differential maybe made it seem like they played an outstanding game, but they really didn’t. There were numerous times they were pinned in their own zone, only to have the Bolts hit the post, or inexplicably shoot the puck wide with terrific chances to score. The Bolts also dropped into their stupid ass 1-3-1 when they were up early in the 3rd, and when that happened I knew the Rangers would win. Sitting back and letting the Rangers attack is pretty much the worst way to defend against us. Want to know how to play against the Rangers? You attack them with speed. Come at the inexperienced D hard, and forecheck, forecheck, forecheck. That’s how you win. Sitting back and trying to hold a lead is just play idiotic in this day and age of hockey. I don’t get why teams still try to do it. Tom Renney pretty much got fired from the Rangers for trying to play that stupid brand of hockey, and I’d expect a very competent GM in Steve Yzerman to see the writing on the wall as well with his coach, barring some miraculous change in philosophy. This is a very good team playing some very stupid hockey.

Getting quickly back to the Rangers before I head to bed, you have to give a ton of credit to Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov for this win. They attacked the net, they got pucks on net, and they got us a win. That’s huge. Now it’s up to Torts to get the team playing Rangers hockey again, because what I am seeing right now isn’t really the kind of hockey I see winning us games against better teams. I want to see that team that beat the Caps, Flyers and Penguins, not the team that narrowly defeated the hapless Canes and pitiful Bolts.

One Response to “Finding Ways, But Still A Ways To Go – Rangers @ Lightning Post Game Thoughts…”

While I understand what you are getting at with the cycle of winning streak followed by losing streak by the Rangers – they have been maddeningly consistent with this previously – I believe that this team is better than that. Perhaps what we have seen in the last couple of games is the Rangers not being able to come into games against lesser opponents, without any real rivalry there, with the same intensity as we saw in the prior three games. While this trait is not ideal, there is a continuing process of this team coming together and improving, and I think that this too will improve. They have certainly turned the corner as far as getting shots on goal from anywhere and everywhere since their recent (brief) losing streak, which I am very pleased about. This is not a team that is currently playing to its potential, but I would prefer to have them where they are and continuing to improve than to have them playing as well as they could at this point of the season. Case in point: last year’s Flyers team. They were playing so well in the first half of the season that they relaxed, and could never get the momentum and hunger to win back. I don’t want to put the touch of death on this team, but I am extremely pleased with how this season has been progressing, and even during the down points, I felt confident that everything was moving the right direction in the bigger picture. I am sticking by my off-season confidence that we will be competing for the division title and making some real noise in the playoffs this year. The solid young core has one year more experience, familiarity with Fonz’s system and belief in one another. The addition of Richards, and the introduction of Hagelin and Mitchell has given us a balanced team. The improved play of Stepan, and the stepping up we’ve seen by all of the defencemen in the absence of Staal has made our young blueliners arguably the best in the game. And having a healthy Biron to be a reliable backup to Hank, who is actually being given a chance to shoulder the load of games must not be underestimated. But, timing is everything, and if we peak too soon it could be very detrimental to the team’s success.