Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 6/28/14

Typically the third game of an 82-game season would not be considered important since, well, there are still 79 others to play. But tomorrow's match against the rival New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum has grown in importance as the week has gone on, especially after the Isles destructed the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, 5-1. There's always hype going into these match-ups, but this particular game seems to have a little bit more excitement surrounding it than most do. 

The Rangers need to have a strong response tomorrow night -- win or lose -- after dropping two straight games in extra time to begin the season in Europe. More irksome than the fact that they've started the year off 0-0-2 is that they didn't look too great out on the ice in either tilt. There were two strong periods in the first game against the Los Angeles Kings, but that was about it. Simply unacceptable. 

The biggest concern right now is the defense, as you would expect with Marc Staal still out of the lineup with post-concussion headaches. But you cannot pinpoint their problems to the personnel, because the structure and execution has been horrendous. How many wide open shots has the opposition received through two games? How many times has Henrik Lundqvist had to go one-on-one and bail out his teammates? It was getting tedious, and hopefully it was a result of not having many practices together before the start of the season. If it wasn't, then we are in for a long year defensively.

And on offense, certain lines only like to show up now and then. He had a beauty of a goal to tie the game last Saturday, but Brad Richards has shown up for a total of 3 out of 6 periods to this point. A $7 million player only showing up for half of the game? Please do not start that trend again. 

And where has Derek Stepan been? Where's Mats Zuccarello been? Even Ruslan Fedotenko has been nearly invisible since being moved off the second line. These are all guys that the Rangers are counting on for secondary scoring, so looking lost out there certainly isn't helping the team at all. But again, I'm not going to blame the back-to-back poor performances on just a certain group of players - it's on the entire team. 

The Blueshirts desperately need to come out with guns blazing on Saturday. Yes, the Islanders may have torn apart the Bolts last night, but to be honest, I couldn't give less of a damn. Saturday is a new day and the Rangers are a new team. There is no reason for them to come out flat against a rival and then turn it on late to try and tie the game. That garbage needs to be left in Europe and the Rangers need to get back to playing their complete 60-minute game. 

And not only do the need to be better offensively and defensively, but they need to be physical as well. The Islanders top two lines are skilled, but they can be slowed down with some body play. Hit Tavares, hit Grabner, and hit Parenteau. That's the best way of going right at them and slowing them down, especially with Grabner since he's so fast that a defensive error will surely cost you.

I hope a lot of you plan on attending tomorrow's game at the Coliseum as I am, because the team needs our support. After all, they haven't been able to have it yet this season.


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