Through the first ten games of the season, the Rangers have managed three wins and 16 goals, the fewest goals amassed by any team in the league to this point. It is only October, but it may be time for Rangers management to start asking tough questions, like: “Does Joe Torre know anything about hockey?”
There are areas of improvement since last season – the Rangers defense, long a problem, has seemed revitalized lately, helping goaltender Henrik Lundqvist keep every game from being a rout. In Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Rangers outshot the Leafs 11-5 in the first period, but allowed 12 shots and three goals in the second. As in most of their losses this season, the Rangers were unable to come back from a bad period, and unable to score. The addition of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury to the already-impressive list of scoring forwards was supposed to assuage that problem, but it seems to have exacerbated it instead.
Jaromir Jagr scored just his second goal of the season against the Leafs, on a line centered by Gomez, brought in to provide speed, agility and scoring help. Instead, their line often looks disjointed and misses opportunities. There seems to be no real communication there, though Head Coach Tom Renney apparently feels otherwise. When asked about their chemistry, Renney said, “I do see something there.”
Of course, he also said, “I still believe strongly that there is a lot to like in our game…I believe we’ll be fine and I think we’ll do the right things.” Everyone, including Fox Mulder, wants to believe, but the evidence to this point suggests that the Rangers are either not capable of both scoring and being defensive, or not certain how to do those things during the course of one game. The pairing of Brendan Shanahan and Chris Drury looked more promising early on, but they too have been unable to finish and drifted along with the rest of the forwards, allowing turnovers through inattention, missing passes and shooting blanks, when they shoot at all.
Lundqvist, without whom the Rangers would be completely adrift, has allowed only 21 goals in ten games and posted two shutouts – giving him a 1.90 GAA and a .928 save percentage, seventh best among all goaltenders in the League, with more games played than any of the better six. Even with the defensive corps keeping as many shots and rebounds as they can away from him, the team’s prospects are dim if they can’t work the other end of the ice.
“We have to score more goals,” said Jagr following the Leafs game. “[Lundqvist] can’t stop all the shots, it’s too much pressure.”
That pressure is felt by everyone involved, including Renney, who noted, “We’re not quite ready to take on the responsibility of the rest of the season,” though he also seems not quite ready to say changes need to be made, “the beauty of it is, they want to win, and I think they’ll play hard going forward, they just have to score.” The season is upon them, ready or not, and so far, wanting to win has produced nothing more than three wins and 16 goals.