NEW YORK – For some teams, it’s going to take a little while before they get their legs under them.
One of those teams appears to be the New York Rangers, who have started the season with two subpar efforts – a 3-1 season-opening loss in Boston on Saturday, and a 6-3 home-opener defeat to Pittsburgh (2-0-0) on Sunday.
“We’re not playing Rangers hockey,” said Dan Girardi after playing just over 21 minutes. “There’s glimpses of it – in the third period, we had some glimpses of what we can do. That’s the way we have to play the whole time. I’m not sure why [not]. We have to figure that out and correct that as soon as possible with the shortened season.”
“The effort – the execution wasn’t there,” said defenseman Marc Staal. “The little passes, the details that get us out of our end zone quickly and not hemmed in weren’t there. We were just a little disjointed and it took us a while to get the puck back. When we did, we were too tired to make any plays with it.”
After only a six-day training camp followed by back-to-back games, the Rangers haven’t had enough time to get their conditioning set. And, it shows. They continue to look rusty, and remain out of sorts. Passes that should go tape-to-tape are not connecting with their targets, and play in their own zone has been becoming of what they should be — one of the top defensive units in the league.
“We seem to get running around,” said Rick Nash of the team’s own-zone play. ”The system works when all five guys are doing it as a unit. We haven’t been, and it’s showing on the ice. When one guy doesn’t stay with the chain, it breaks down.”
“We have to get a little bit of our swagger back,” Girardi said. “Especially at home, going into games thinking we can win a game and not just sort of playing it and seeing what happens. We have to be in groups of five on the ice, offensively and defensively, really tighten up the little things and get back to the way we played last year.”
Part of the reason it appears to be taking longer for the Rangers to get it together is due to New York’s turnover. While Rick Nash was their only big-name addition, Marian Gaborik has moved down to the second line, Taylor Pyatt is a newcomer on the third line, while Arron Asham and Jeff Halpern are newly installed on the bottom line.
It will take a little while for those changes to come together. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and chemistry is difficult to build after only seven days.
“How we played, and how this team has played the last few days, it’s not there yet,” said Brad Richards, who had two assists. “To be a good team, it’s a responsibility to out there and take care of those things.”
“It’s still not there,” said Ryan Callahan, who scored his first goal of the season in the first period. “It needs to improve. Those one-on-one battles in the corner, holding onto pucks in the offensive zone, things that we did so well last year that gave us so much success, that’s a big part of it and it’s what we need to work on.”
Now, after a chaotic start to the season against two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Rangers (0-2-0) will finally get a chance to work on those things. After a day off on Monday, the Rangers return to practice on Tuesday. Their next game is Wednesday at MSG against the Bruins.
“There’s only 48 games, so every game means a little bit more,” Callahan said. “This isn’t the start we wanted to get off to, but by no means is there panic in here. We know the group we have in here, we know there’s things we need to fix and correct, and we can do that.”
“Nobody’s pushing any panic buttons,” said Nash. “It’s not the start we wanted. We have to get back to work. There’s a lot of mistakes out there we have to correct. It’s a short season, so we have to correct them fast and make sure we come out better.”
“We can’t use the early-in-the-season thing,” said Richards. “The only good thing is we’re only four points out in the division. It’s going to come quick, and you can’t let it snowball. You don’t want to do that in an 82 game season, but with only 46 games left it’s got to be corrected quickly. I don’t think there’s anything out there we can’t correct. Plain and simple, it’s up to us if we want to buy into it. That’s the good thing: we can all do it when we decide to do it.”
Henrik Lundqvist was pulled from the game in the second period after giving up four goals on 18 shots. It’s the first time he’s been yanked from a game since October 23, 2011, when he was pulled in the third period at Edmonton due to a skate issue.
Taylor Pyatt (6:04 of the third) and Rick Nash (short-handed at 14:45 of the third) each scored their first goal as a Ranger. The last time the Rangers had two-or-more players score a goal in their MSG debut as a Ranger was Oct. 3, 2009 vs. Ottawa, when Vinny Prospal, Michael Del Zotto, and Marian Gaborik scored in a 5-2 win.
Arron Asham and Tanner Glass engaged in a long fight just two seconds into the game, sending the fans into an early frenzy. Rangers coach John Tortorella said he was upset with his team’s response – a flat first period that saw them trailing 3-1 after 20 minutes.
Last season, the Rangers lost their first three games of the season – two of them in overtime — and started 3-3-3. After a 24-6-1 run over their next 31 games, the Rangers went on to finish first in the Eastern Conference.