Although, Monday was another in a growing list of ugly games to start the season for the New York Rangers, there might just be some slivers of hope for the this underperforming team and its fans to grasp on to.
That might be hard to believe after another dismal showing by the Blueshirts, this time a 4-1 home-ice loss to the San Jose Sharks that dropped their record to 2-6-2 out of the gate. Yet again, the Rangers surrendered a goal on the first shot against (third time this season that’s happened) and Henrik Lundqvist did not make things better when he allowed a bad-angle softie to Tim Heed midway through the first period or misplayed a puck behind his net for a Sharks gimme that made it 4-0 early in the third period.
The power play — a bright spot the first few games of the season — went 0-for-6 and was the target of leather-lunged boos from the angry MSG spectators. The Rangers managed 34 shots and some good scoring chances yet scored only one goal, the sixth time in ten games they’ve been held to two or fewer this season. Kevin Shattenkirk’s turnover led to the Sharks third goal. Rick Nash remained stuck on one point this season, Chris Kreider has one goal. Alain Vigneault dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen again because of the lack of depth up front.
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You get the idea. More of the same.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
However, beyond Tuesday’s news that benched forward Adam Cracknell was placed on waivers, there actually might be some other good news for the Rangers.
Upcoming schedule should give Rangers a boost
When you’ve won only two of your first ten games and have only six points in that span, and you sit in last place, you can not take anything for granted.
That said, their next two opponents are playing worse than they are, making Thursday’s home game against the winless — as of Tuesday — Arizona Coyotes and Saturday’s road contest in Montreal against the one-win Canadiens absolute must-haves for the Rangers.
It’s hard to imagine that the Blueshirts, who have certainly played far better than both of their next two adversaries, will not come away with back-to-back victories here. In so doing, everyone, from players to coaches to fans, can exhale and relax a little bit before next Tuesday’s Garden match against the Vegas Golden Knights, who, it should be noted, are dressing their third and fourth goaltenders because of injuries to Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban. Win the first two and all of a sudden that Golden Knights contest lines up as a third-straight victory to close out the October schedule.
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Three wins in a row would give the Rangers points in six of their last seven (4-1-2), but we’re getting way ahead of ourselves.
There are some major assumptions being made here, the biggest being that the Rangers — who have not won consecutive games yet this season — are good enough to overcome their season-long malaise, no matter the opposition, and string together victories.
No one is running away in the Metropolitan Division
Yes, the Rangers are in last place in the Metro, but take a close look at the standings. Virtually every team in the division is treading water and/or dealing with their own issues — whether that’s the Penguins sluggish start and horrific backup goaltending or the Capitals .500 start or the Blue Jackets losing a couple games in a row.
Right now, the Devils sit in first place with 12 points, winners of six of their first eight games, yet only six points ahead of the last-place Blueshirts. And while they’ve been fun to watch, the Devils still have much to prove after finishing in the cellar last season and missing the playoffs five straight years.
The Penguins have 11 points, while the Flyers and Blue Jackets have ten apiece, and the Islanders and Caps each have nine.
Now it is true the Rangers have played more games than any team in the league, but there is zero reason to panic — well, that is unless you actually watch their d-zone play, lack of finish offensively and general uninspired efforts, so far, but we digress.
The good news is that this is not 2016-17 when multiple teams, including the Rangers, stormed out of the gates in the Metro. A team like the Islanders, for example, missed the playoffs last season by one point despite a strong second half because their poor start put them too far behind an incredibly competitive division from the get-go. Such is not the case this season.
Pessimism vs. Optimism
Right now, it’s a case of both for the Rangers. So, so many reasons to be pessimistic, yet several to be optimistic moving forward, as well.
Lundqvist often said over the years that he takes every situation and turns it around until it works for him, and to be honest, most professional athletes likely take this approach. For public relations people, it’s called Spin. For athletes, it’s finding the positive to foster belief and hope.
Let’s see if the upcoming week provides more reasons to be optimistic or pessimistic as it pertains to the Rangers.