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I was in the car with my in-laws and my wife driving back home, talking to my Father-in-law about the Rangers game on tonight that I was going to watch. The talk went something like…oh, who are they playing? And I say something like, it’s the Canadiens, and it’s in Montreal, we’re going to lose, and some freaky shit you’ve never seen happen in your life will likely occur.

What happens? Let’s see, we lose Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Michael Del Zotto for various reasons. Our forwards can’t do CRAP out there. Our #1 offensive player from a year ago was benched, and we got shutout while barely registering a quality shot on goal, unless Derek Stepans shoot in from the blueline that almost found it’s way in counts.

But, while that’s likely to be the talk of the town for the next little while, to me this game comes down to one thing.

The Rangers horses aren’t playing well.

Last year we finished in first place. Marian Gaborik had 40+, Brad Richards was nuclear hot down the stretch, and Henrik Lundqvist was basically in God-Mode most of the year.

This year? Henrik was mediocre at best to start the season, Gaborik had 4 awesome games and has been anywhere between average to horrendous on most night, and Brad Richards has been nothing short of atrocious on almost every single night this year (frankly, he should have been a scratch coming into this game to get his head on straight).

I don’t care what team you have, when your best players aren’t your best players, you ain’t winning folks. You can only be carried for so long by secondary scoring. There’s a reason it’s secondary scoring, it’s because it’s supposed to happen every now and then from your secondary guys to put you over the top in games when your big guys aren’t going. But when your big guys haven’t been going all season long, then you aren’t going to do SQUAT out there.

Call it what it is guys, this isn’t on Torts, this is on Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik, Marc Staal, etc, etc, etc. Every guy who is wearing a letter, has been underwhelming. Staal hasn’t had a good season so far. Cally? Love the guy, but offensively he hasn’t given us much in the way of creating chances. He’s been a no-show offensively most night. The effort is ALWAYS there, but he’s not playing well in the offensive zone.

It’s a situation you see all teams go through, when a few key guys start to play terrible, they start hurting the confidence of everyone else around them because the others rely on them so much. The worse they play, the worse everyone plays, the worse everyone around them play, the worse they play, and so-on. You’re only going to be carried by Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin so long. If the Rangers had Nash in the lineup (who has been paying phenomenally thus far), that would be one thing. You can at least ride that 1 line that was on fire for a bit till the other guys get going, but with Nash out, and with Hagelin and Stepan simply not good enough to carry a team on their backs, you’ve got a team that’s caught in a downward spiral.

I agree with Torts, they gotta just keep playing, hope they get some puck luck, and that it gets the team going. I’m not sure it was the energy or effort level so much as the aggressiveness that’s been missing. They seem scared to make a mistake, which can make you passive, which immediately removes your aggressive forecheck game.

It’s a slippery slope.

Oh, and did we just mention that 3 of their top 4 defenseman didn’t finish this game?

If Girardi and McDonagh are out long term, this season will be in major league jeopardy. We could have probably survived one or the other. But both? Hell.

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