Shaking off the rust

Brian Boyle is one of the guys that needs to be better. (Scott Levy/NHLI/Getty Images)

Brian Boyle is one of the guys that needs to be better. (Scott Levy/NHLI/Getty Images)

In case you missed it –and if you’ve been watching, you haven’t– the Rangers have been incredibly rusty in their opening two games against the Bruins and the Penguins. The defense has missed assignments, the offense hasn’t clicked, and it looks like only three players –Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan– have shown up so far this year. In a shortened season every loss is heightened, but opening with two losses isn’t the end of the world.

Last season, the Rangers started the season 0-2-1 and finished October 4-3-3. By December, they were in first place and never looking back. Yes, the Rangers are 0-2 right now, but so are the Flyers and the Coyotes, two playoff teams from last year and are expected to make the playoffs this year. We stated yesterday that one game does not make a season, neither does two games.

That said, the Rangers are in a must win situation when the Bruins come to town on Wednesday. It’s been tweeted a lot that no team has ever started 0-3 in a shortened season and come back to make the playoffs. Now that information is skewed as there has only been one shortened season, and no team that started 0-3 was as talented as the Rangers.

Bill Meltzer pointed out the following records at the start of the last shortened season, and the information is intriguing:

In 1995, Flyers started out 3-7-1. Devils started 3-5-2. Caps were 2-8-2. NYR was 1-4-0 and 13-16-3. All made playoffs. Devils won the Cup.

Of course, the counter argument here is that the Rangers barely made the playoffs, and did so with a losing record of 22-23-3. But in such a format, the only thing the team needs to do is make the playoffs. They have an All-World goaltender that is capable of stealing games, and they have the offensive talent and defensive strength that will win them games.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a guarantee that the Rangers will recover, especially if they continue to play the way they have been. Last season, they survived because they were getting games to overtime in October. A loss to Boston on Wednesday would be crippling.

The rest of the club, specifically the top-six forwards and top-four defensemen that haven’t played well, needs to get back on track. They need to stop taking stupid penalties (see: Hagelin, Carl; Boyle, Brian) and need to stop missing defensive assignments (see: Staal, Marc; Del Zotto, Michael; Bickel, Stu). There’s only so much time before they dig themselves a hole they can’t climb out of.

5 Responses to “Shaking off the rust”

  1. Kris says:

    I’m not worried about the 0-2 start considering they played two top teams. That being said, there are 2 things that I think should change, for now.

    First, stop trying to block every shot. Let the goalies see the shot. That will let them get back in game shape. Hank only trained with one shooter over the course of the lockout. Any screen is causing him to battle every puck. Every failed shot block is a screen for him to battle through. Let him get in a rhythm before battling through extra screens.

    Second, enough with the “cute” plays and put the puck on net. Timing is not there (which is expected) so instead of the back door play or the drop passes put the puck on goal. This s not a fire Torts comment want that clear upfront, however his style/system relies on timing and execution, 2 things that are going to be off right now. Play simple hockey. Pucks and bodies to the net. Score the goals that have been scored on against them. As they get back into the flow of playing games, that is when Torts system comes back. Have to have timing to get chemistry.

  2. Jerry says:

    I’ve posted this before.maybe it’s not all rust,maybe you let to much chemistry walk away from last year.the Nash move was fine ,it’s going to work out well.i just believe maybe we should have not let guys like Feds,Mitchell and Prust go.i understand the money with Prust but like I’ve said before I’ve read several articles about how important he was to this team coming from torts mouth.i also understand we didn’t have a crystal ball to see a lockout so long or the buyout of redden to clear cap space for next year which is a big help now but sometimes you just can’t make too many moves and expect the same results,different players are different people in regards to the way they play and respond. I know it’s early and we didn’t have a real camp but I hope it doesn’t bite us in the rear end.its just my thought and I have my opinion,I hope I’m not right.

  3. Blueshirt In Paris says:

    Trying not to over-analyze 2 games and individual efforts but what concerns me is the continuation of teams taking advantage of our collapse. Ott, WAS and Devils (successfully) took advantage of that last playoffs, getting puck back up high for wide open point men for shots.

    Also the 3rd D pairing is still a liability. I think the bottom 6 turnover will be a wash in the end but as we had issues with bottom 6 depth last year, those issues remain.

  4. Gary says:

    If they go 3-4 or 4-3 over the first seven there won’t be anything to worry about

    • Spozo says:

      Exactly. They play 7 games this month. Two against the Bruins, two against the Penguins, two against the Flyers and a single game against the Leafs. That isn’t exactly a cakewalk.