NEW YORK RANGERS: If You Don't Have a Stomach for This, Beat it.
OK Rangers fans, with Winter's adversity blowing through our doors for really the first time all season, what are we going to do now? Freak?
This is not a calamitous downturn in our season. At least I don't think it is. Going 0-2-1-1 in our last four games is less a matter of what's been transpiring on the ice than it is a test of our resolve moving forward. This situation begs for composure and calm. You didn't think the season would go that easily, did you? There will be more losses along the way. Some losses will be of the embarrassing variety; some more closely contested; and some where we'll feel like we got rooked. But rest assured, they will come, and they will make us question this team again. If you don't understand that, you don't know hockey. And if you can't deal with that, then you are not a Rangers fan.
This is precisely what building leads are all about; to give a team room for mistakes during the ebbs and flows of a season and for easing differing levels of fan discomfort. But much closer to the Rangers' situation, these are necessary steps of any youth-building plan. Learning how to lose and keeping one's composure are just as important to success as accumulating points in the standings. As a fan, you want to know if your team will fight on or fold. Points are of no use unless you learn how to lose. And through that, comes the art of winning.
This recent slide comes at a great time - right before the trade deadline. We are now forced to look within ourselves and decide whether we have faith and confidence in what we're doing, or will we succumb to fears, and nervous impulse, and decide to do imprudent things. There is no better time to resolve these inner conflicts than when things are going badly. No one's intangibles are being tested when you're winning. But if you insist on a quick bright side pick me up, both Boston, and the Devils lost Friday night as well. So for a night, we kind of get a wash Ranger fans.
Do we need a glimmering star coming in here to do big things? Or, do we merely need willing and able players to do small things correctly. On that note, early on against the Blackhawks, and again last night versus the Islanders, the Rangers made Marty Biron look suspect between the pipes. Repeated breakdowns resulted in goals-by-the-bunches at the other end. That makes mounting comebacks tough.
But getting shut-out by the Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins doesn't sit well. I think we are all in agreement on that. Still, most of our problems lie with the power play, and not necessarily lacking a player with power, or, fire-power if you will. Just ask the Penguins or even the Detroit Red Wings. Even after all their record breaking streak of consecutive wins at home, Detroit is still a point behind Vancouver in the Western Conference standings. So at the end of the day, all that really matters is how you go out and play the next game.
Next up for the Rangers will be the Buffalo Sabres tonight at Madison Square Garden. Expect another tight, low scoring game. Only a fool would look at the twenty-one point disparity between the teams and deem the Rangers a favorite to win. Once again, such person does not know the Buffalo Sabres, and clearly does not know hockey.
Then, to usher in the trade deadline, the Rangers will face the New Jersey Devils on Monday again. In our last two meetings against the Devils, the Blueshirts lost a 4-3 shoot-out, then got stymied by Martin Brodeur 1-0 on February 7th. And if I was worrisome of the Devils before, I find them more so now. New Jersey made their deadline move. They targeted Minnesota's defenseman; Marek Zidlicky; and got him. And personally, I find that troublesome for the Rangers. The move bolsters and adds depth to New Jersey's already well playing young corp of blue liners with a veteran. Having played for Jacques LaMaire before, he'll be in fine tune with the Devils' ways. And, the 35 year old defenseman can score too. He has 38 points this season off 14 goals and 24 assists.
If there's anyone who thinks there will be anything easy about the remaining twenty-three games of the regular season, they do not know the first thing about hockey. Things only get tougher from here and one man does not solve things in this game; save a hot goalie. Hockey is about resolve and intestinal fortitude and team. If you don't have the stomach for it, beat it.
The season is now a battle of Patience versus Panic. I'm not predicting this; I'm merely suggesting this - A decision to keep this team in tact and untouched beyond the deadline, could possibly turn into a defining moment inside the locker room. Organizational trust can go a long way towards reforging the bonds that tie this Band of Blueshirts together. I want to stay the course. I believe in team, and chemistry, and Family. I believe in this Coach's vision. I believe in maintaining flexibility under the salary cap. And sometimes, in the right situations, I believe Championships can be won on the backs of hard working role players.
For now, I'm just like Coach. I like these guys and this plan, and short-term, I just want to get by the Sabres and the Devils.
Let's Go Rangers!
SATURDAY NIGHT PUCKS
"Battle for the Empire State"
NEW YORK RANGERS
33rd Street at 7th Avenue