Quite honestly the worst thing you can tell a hockey player is that they’re soft. Gerard Gallant didn’t just tell one player that Monday night but he told his entire roster that, albeit nicer than most can say it. Gallant ripped into his team by saying “We didn’t show up. We didn’t play hard enough, we didn’t compete hard enough. All we did was yell at the linesmen for getting thrown out of the faceoffs. A lot of bad things.” When you see a statement like that, you’d assume the Rangers are down 3-1 in their first round matchup with the Devils. However, the series is tied 2-2 and this kind of statement lets you know what Gallant expects from this years team.
This isn’t last year. These aren’t kids just looking to get experience, this is a club competing for a championship. If they didn’t know that before then they should now after the coach went scorched earth on them after a lackluster effort Monday night. We know that these comments were directed for the whole team but there’s a few players who should take these words closer to heart than any of them.
Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Vincent Trocheck take a close look at what your coach is saying.
After games one and two everyone in Rangers Nation was feeling great because the Rangers just dominated the Devils 10-2 with Panarin registering just two points (both assists), Zibanejad with one assist (he picked up a 2nd assist in game 3), and Trocheck with a whopping zero points in the first two games. The Blueshirts offense in Jersey was carried by Tarasenko, Fox, Kane, and Kreider, which is a huge positive. But after dropping two straight on home ice and Panarin and Zibanejad having to be placed on milk cartons, this is becoming a worrisome trend and not a blip on the radar.
Hence the call out.
To be fair, Panarin has bought into what Gallant wanted last year (a full 200 foot effort), but when you’re making $11.6 million, you’re expected to be more than Guy Carbonneau. No disrespect to Carbonnaeu, but Panarin was brought here to be more Mark Messier and less Scott Gomez. There is no issue with Panarin focusing more on the defensive part of the game, but Gallant and company still have to remind and instill the confidence in Panarin that he can still do the things that allow him to be a dynamic 90 point plus producer during the regular season.
One way to help Zibanejad wake up from his offensive slumber would be getting Zibanejad’s line away from Nico Hischier as soon as possible. While Zibanejad has done a great job rendering Hischier offensively useless this series, it’s come at a deep cost to the Blueshirts as well. Hischier is a terrific two way forward and he’s helped keep the once 40 goal scorer quiet through four games. Trying to match Zibanejad against Jack Hughes’ line could help ignite Mika while also quieting down Hughes, who has been the Devils only source of offense.
This series is a long way from being over, and Gallant calling out his club shows that this team should come out with their hair on fire in Game 5. While there’s been some things to complain about from a Rangers standpoint so far this postseason, Gallant has not been one of them. Laying the challenge at the feet of his club will show us what type of grit and mental toughness that this team has and if they truly do have enough to dig deep to win 16 games this spring.