New York – When it rains, it pours. Right now its pouring on the New York Rangers as they drop yet another game; this time to the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 in overtime. A win was in the Rangers hands and they gave it away not once, but twice. Getting right to the thick of it, the blueshirts started off flat. They seemed lost yet again and the lack of effort was glaring. A few chances on the power play got them back into the game. Two goals to be exact in a one minute span had the Rangers right back into it before taking the lead early in the third period.
The lead would hold up until the dying minute of the game when Sidney Crosby banked a shot off Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game and force overtime. Low and behold, in the overtime period, a horrendous play by Ryan McDonagh behind his own net gave the puck up to Phil Kessel who threw the puck across to Evgeni Malkin to secure the win for the Penguins. The overall record for the Rangers is now 1-5-1.
You wouldn’t sound the alarm just yet, or push that panic button but, a hand could be close to that button in the front office. There is a cause for concern as this has been a dreadful start to the season for the Original Six franchise. A start that can’t get anymore out of hand given the division they play in.
David Desharnais registered two points (one goal, one assist), including his first goal as a Ranger, won seven of 12 faceoffs (58.3%), and posted a plus-two rating. Desharnais has notched an assist/point in each of the last two games (one goal, two assists), and he has also recorded five points (four goals, one assist) in his last three contests against the Penguins. Desharnais has posted a faceoff win percentage of 50.0% or better in six of seven games thus far this season.
Michael Grabner tallied a goal, recorded three shots on goal, and posted a plus-one rating in tonight’s game. Grabner tied for ninth in the NHL – and led the Rangers – in even strength goals during the 2016-17 season (26). Pavel Buchnevich recorded a power play goal and registered two shots on goal. He has tallied a point in three of the last five games (one goal, two assists) and in four of seven contests in 2017-18 (one goal, three assists). J.T. Miller tied a single-game career-high with three points (one goal, two assists), recorded a power play goal, and posted a plus-two rating. Miller posted the third three-point game of his NHL career in tonight’s contest.
When listening to tonight’s quotes you have to wonder if there is starting to be a disconnect between players and coach. When asked about the frustration of the loss in general Vigneault said, “There’s no sense in being frustrated. It’s about playing the game and playing it the right way. We started off tonight not making the simple plays, but you have to like the way we battled back. We came back real strong in the second and third”.
The same question was asked to Henrik Lundqvist and he went on to say, “It’s really frustrating, disappointing, hard to accept. I thought we battled back really well in this game, played a strong game”. So the coach says no sense in being frustrated and the player says its frustrating. Two different pages tells the story of where the locker room maybe right now as the Rangers search for answers.
All of Rangerstown seems to be on the edge of the cliff already and rightfully so, but at the end of the day is it really on the coach? Some may say yes, while others say no. Sure, the coach is a major influence of what decisions are made and what works and what doesn’t work but, its the players who show up to work and are suppose to give you effort. Could it be that the Rangers are no longer playing for Alain Vigneault and a chance is imminent? There will be a point where things get really out of hand and it may force general manager Jeff Gorton to make some sort of move. A trade is likely but a coaching change may come first.
According to capfriendly.com, the Rangers have just over $1.7 million in cap space, so not much room to make for a big time move unless a contract is moved. Going into the season we knew it was going to be a year of transition for the Rangers as a change in culture was beginning when names like Derek Stepan and Dan Girardi were no longer in the locker room. This start however, wasn’t seen by anyone within the organization.
This cause for concern is certainly starting to creep into Vigneault’s head as he has to feel the heat from beneath him. It’s hard to fire a guy in retrospect, who has had a successful (minus a Stanley Cup trophy) tenure as Rangers coach. In his first season, he brought the Rangers to a Stanley Cup finals appearance followed by another Eastern Conference finals. He’s had a few 100 point seasons with the club, so yes it is hard to fire a guy of that caliber but at the same time, change needs to be made in order to save a season. A candidate to take over is current assistant coach Lindy Ruff who has plenty of NHL coaching experience.
It’s interesting to see with some more tough games coming up for the Rangers how they can bounce back from this dismal start. If the losses continue to rack up, we may see some tough decisions having to be made before the month of October ends.