After getting my hopes up once again after a win against New Jersey, the Rangers made sure to shoot down my hopes and dreams, AGAIN. The Rangers lost to the Florida Panthers tonight at home coming off a big win against New Jersey. The Panthers are the worst team in the East (arguably the league) and got their 9th win of the season at the Garden on Thursday night. I’m sorry but if you are a team to be reckon with you don’t lose this game. Period end of discussion. The Rangers made another goaltender look like Patrick Roy in his prime against Florida. I am not going to give credit to Jacob Markstrom in this game. I mean he did play well, extremely well and he did what he was suppose to do. But how many times have we seen this team make every goalie they face look like a Vezina winner? It is the trend now for the Rangers this season. The Ranger offense was suppose to get better last off-season and they have actually gotten worse. There are several contributing factors to why this offense is inept. Let’s break those factors down.
1) Gaborik and Richards- I never like singling out players but it is evident that Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards are not the players they once were. They are getting a combined 19.5 million dollars this year and they only have a combined 33 points. That does not cut it by any standards. If the Ranger offense wanted to be where it should be this year, both those players needed to be where they were last year and they are no where close. Now unfortunately for Gaborik, I think he is still hurt. He does not look competitive along the boards and his shot is nowhere near where it once was. His shots are not at the same velocity as they were in the past. That is the ultimate reason why he is not finishing. Even with the goal against the Panthers he is struggling to score. The scary thing in my opinion is that Gabby played a good game against Florida. He was skating, created some opportunities, and had 7 SOG. I still think that his shoulder is still not 100%. I am not using that as an excuse and neither is he, it is just the unfortunate reality. As for Richards his game has regressed. The lockout damaged his game and with his very heavy contract it will be tough for him to stay a Blueshirt for many years to come. The clock is ticking for Richards to turn his game around fast. If these two guys aren’t producing the Ranger’s struggle, as we have seen this entire season thus far.
2) John Tortorella- Let me get this out of the way. Torts is a great coach. He is arguably the best American born head coach in the game. Which leads me dumbfounded to why he cannot change his system to accommodate this new type of team. Heavy grinding in the offensive zone and play only around the boards has proven it will not create offense with this different Ranger team. I feel everyone has seen that except for the man behind the bench. It amazes me. The Rangers got 42 shots on goal in this game and how many of those opportunities were real good chances? Not many compared to the chances Pittsburgh, Chicago, Anaheim, and even the Islanders get. This Ranger offense was suppose to be just as lethal as those teams right? Well what is the problem? A lot of this lies on the shoulders of the coach. He has not been able to adapt. Not only that but I don’t understand what he does with the lines. I understand I am not the coach but I thought the line of Stepan-Hagelin-Nash was working well. I thought they created a lot of real good chances. And what does Tort’s do? He breaks up the line to put Nash with two struggling all-stars that has not worked out well at all. The second line of Cally-Stepan-Hagelin is a good line but has no finishers evident in the game against Florida. I don’t get it. I believe Tortorella MUST change his system and he must stop meshing with the lines. He must go back to what works. He has to or the offense will continue to be terrible.
3) Non-existent scoring from 3rd and 4th lines- First off, lets wish Glen Sather a speedy recovery and pray he will be OK as he has undergone Prostate Cancer Surgery. Our thoughts and prayers are with him. Glen Sather as a GM is a mystery. He makes some horrible deals with signing players that don’t have it anymore and backs it up with miraculous trades. But the Rangers did not realize how important their bottom six were last season. I make the Nash trade any day of the week but the three players they should NOT have let go of were Prust, Feds, and Mitchell. All those players last year could score, even at critical times. Now the Rangers have Powe, Asham, Halpern, Haley, and Pyatt. Pyatt scored a few goals to begin the year but has not scored since January. The rest have combined for two goals and they have played almost every game this season. (With the exception of Asham and Powe missing some games to injury) I understand you should not rely on the lines to score consistently. But at least some of the time they need to score and they have not at all this season. It is currently killing the Rangers and management must address this come the off-season.