Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 5/22/12

What exactly are the yips? The yips are defined as a state of nervous tension affecting an athlete (as a golfer) in the performance of a crucial action. Athletes across sports are victims to the yips, especially those who play in New York-- the bright lights, roaring crowd, and worst of all, never-ending expectations of greatness are enough to get to most athletes, regardless of their raw skillset.

In baseball, the New York Yankees constantly deal with new players with an incurable case of the yips.  Even if you don't follow the sport, you might remember former All-Star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch struggling to make a routine throw from second. Knoblauch never got over the yips and won't be the last athlete to struggle with an exorbitant amount of pressure on them.

By the same token, the New York Rangers are hoping they can get over their ailment.


"We had the yips with it," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella after last night's 4-1 loss. "We just gave it back to them, and they just progressed with their forecheck and moment comes their way."

Throughout the playoffs, the Rangers struggled to take a two-game lead. They lost Game 2, 4, and 5 against the Ottawa Senators before winning the series in seven. The Rangers then followed that same formula by dropping Game 2, 4 and 6 to the Washington Capitals in their seven-game battle. And last night, with the chance to go up 3-1 on cross-river rival New Jersey Devils, the Rangers struggled to find that killer instinct.

In fact, in those games the Rangers have been a significantly worse team with the series lead across the board. The below chart summarizes their efforts.



As you can see, something about taking a back-bending lead gets them off their game. They shoot less, hit less -- which is troubling considering they have the puck less -- and most importantly they block less shots. Blocking shots is this team's bread and butter; the less they block, the more Henrik Lundqvist will need to scramble. And the more he has to scramble, the less chance he has of winning a 1-0 or 2-1 game.

During the postseason, the Rangers continue to play at the margin. Following a healthy plus-39 goal differential in the regular season, they find themselves only a plus-5 through 18 playoff games. In order for this team to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, they need to develop a killer instinct quickly.

"It was a struggle. It was a struggle for a number of our guys," Tortorella calmly explained following last night's loss. "But we have to move by it. We have to have a short-term memory. I thought we gained some traction as the game went on. Still not making a big offensive play when we need to, to maybe score a goal at that time in the second period."

Scoring in the second period surely would have kept last night's tilt closer. But more than anything, elevating their games at the right time, opposed to struggling with the puck, will be the only way this club truly advances into the next round. Because right now, the more poised team has the momentum heading into this best of three.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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