The New York Rangers blew another multi-goal lead on Friday night, this time against the middling Arizona Coyotes. Continuous mental lapses in discipline reflects poorly on both the coaches and the players.
No one expected that the New York Rangers would be a juggernaut this season. The team was expected to be middle of the pack skewing towards the bottom half of the league. On Friday night the seventh place in the Pacific Division Arizona Coyotes rallied back from a three goal deficit to win 4-3 in overtime.
For the first 26 minutes of regulation, things went to plan for New York. The team scored three separate power play goals while dictating both the flow and pace of play. With the game ripe for the taking, the Rangers proceeded to sleep walk through the final 35 minutes of regulation and fail to press the issue.
The most dangerous emotion in professional sports is without a doubt complacency. The great teams go for the kill in games without allowing their subconscious to creep into their decision making process. Great teams continue pushing the envelope and trying to extend their lead as opposed to the Rangers’ habit of turtling.
The natural inclination to rely on Henrik Lundqvist to preserve a multi-goal lead makes sense. The Swede is one of the five best players to ever step in the crease in the National Hockey League. Banking on the net minder to bail ones self out has become the Rangers’ holding pattern for far too long.
Arizona is tied for the fifth fewest points of any team in the league. For a mediocre Rangers’ team, this is the type of game that talent should win outright. However, as the game ultimately proved, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
While New York had multiple chances to win the game in overtime, it should never have come to that. The Rangers were forcing Arizona into taking penalties and converting the scoring chances. Yet, when it came time to put the nail in the coffin, there was no sense of urgency.
What it all means
Even though nothing was expected from the Rangers going into this season, these multi-goal leads turning into losses are flat out unacceptable. David Quinn is trying to establish a culture of both discipline and accountability, both of which the Rangers failed to showcase against Arizona.
Developing the Rangers into a contender is going to take more than just a bunch of nice words and high draft picks. It’s going to take the right head coach breeding an infectious culture with a hunger for winning. New York on Friday was complacent with allowing Arizona to take the lead and extend its losing streak to two consecutive games.
The obvious argument is that the Rangers are a flat out bad team and prone to mental mistakes. However, the coaching staff and players cannot allow those very mistakes to become the team’s defining feature. Even if the talent develops into a quality group, the intangibles weigh heavy in hockey, especially come playoff time.
There are straightforward lessons from a team getting its teeth kicked in against an inferior opponent. First of all, no lead is ever safe enough in the NHL. The talent is too good, even on bad teams, to sit back and attempt to run out the clock. This isn’t the NFL where a running back can bleed the clock out and continue to move the chains late in the game.
The NHL requires a team constantly pressing forward and mentally engaged. Too much can go wrong on a given play to ever have someone sleep walking or going through the motions.
From the net minder forward every single Rangers’ player needs to take a long hard look at themselves. Blowing a three goal lead to one of the worst teams in the entire league is demoralizing at every level and something that cannot be allowed to happen again.