The New York Rangers want to be a team that is hard to play against,
particularly at home. Don’t look now but their record at home is 5-7-1
following the 3-2 overtime loss to the Devils and the 4-1 loss to the Capitals
and 1-5-1 at home in their last 7. They already have more regulation losses in
11 fewer home games than a year ago, when they went 16-6-2. Comparisons are
already being made between this year’s team and the 2012-2013
version. Despite the change in coaches, both teams were and are underwhelming.
Yet the home record is not comparable and is a cause for concern.
Sometimes it is said that there is more pressure at home caused by the need to
perform for the fans. A champion team thrives under such pressure. The real
reasons for the Rangers turnaround at home seem to be located in a few other
factors. Henrik Lundqvist still sports a lower save percentage than a year ago
and has a losing record himself. Is it the new smaller pads?
Will the newly minted contract change his less than expected
play? In the last 2 loses, it seems that he is allowing shots in, including
non-deflected ones, from 50 feet that he should stop.
The other explanation emerging is the lack of grit, that the team
still misses Brandon Prust. It did seem that for the one winning streak the Rangers
had earlier, this was not a problem. The team was in on the fore-check ferociously,
and the commitment to relentless play was there. That this has trailed off may be a
function of lost confidence, something one usually gains at home. Lack of
scoring continues to be a problem whatever recent year we are looking at.
There aren’t easy answers here; the players and the Coach Vigneault himself are
in search mode to gain some consistency, to be consistently good that is. What
we now hear from the Vigneault is that talking about it does not and has not translated to winning on the ice.
They know what to do, how to “play the right way,” but fail to do it.
This is a tough league we also hear, that it is hard to win night in and night
out due to the level of competition. There is another team on the ice after all
and it isn’t just about what the Rangers do or not do. We can only watch from
an envious distance the teams that do win consistently, and marvel at why: star
scorers, a tough, well-rounded lineup, and full confidence. Winning at home
will have to start now against the Nashville Predators (13-14-3, 29 pts.) tonight,
a winnable game, if the season is to truly mirror last year when the team made the playoffs with a late season push.