Are the wheels starting to fall off of the car that is the New York Rangers?
Though the Rangers are not in dire straits, they are limping into the All-Star break. In their last five games they’ve gone 2-3 with losses in three poor outings against the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and, most recently, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The slump has allowed the Boston Bruins, who defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-1 on Thursday night, to move within a point of the Rangers for first place.
The Rangers play two more games before the NHL breaks for the All-Star Game. The Rangers will battle the Bruins on Saturday at 1 pm and then take on the Winnipeg Jets at Madison Square Garden Wednesday, January 24.
Prior to the slump the Rangers had been playing like the best team in the league, which lead team owner James Dolan to address the hockey media, for the first time since the 2005-06 season, following their win over the Predators on Tuesday.
“I’m very proud of the organization. I’m particularly proud of Mr. Sather,” Dolan told the media who were assembled. “Because all the way back to 2004 when things weren’t going so well and we had a lot of free agents in here and we made the decision to basically redo the strategy, Glen and I actually had a pact. I actually gave him something that I won’t reveal what it is. I said, ‘You can’t give it back to me until we win the Stanley Cup.’ And I think I’m getting pretty close to getting that thing back.”
The proclamation did not sit well Rangers head coach John Tortorella, who told the media that the team needed to just go about its business.
“I’ve got an owner up here talking about a Stanley Cup. That’s a bunch of bull----.” Tortorella said after Dolan had left the room. “We’ve got to take it one day at a time.”
Sound advice since, historically, the Rangers have seemed to level off after hot starts. Last season the Rangers did not give a superb showing during the second half of the season and snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed before they were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. During the 2009-10 season the Rangers poor performances caught up with them as they had their season come down to a shootout against Philadelphia. The Flyers won the game and a spot in the playoffs, while the Rangers were sent home to watch on T.V.
Fans of the team were not too ecstatic about Dolan’s comments since many believe that between January and April many things can happen. Only four points separates the Rangers and the fifth place Flyers and a prolonged stretch of loss could derail what has been to this point an outstanding year for the New York Rangers.
“Our team has to understand if you’re going to have a record like we have, teams are going to start looking for you, and they’re going to be ready to play,” Tortorella told the New York Post
following the Rangers loss on Thursday night. I guess we’re used to those five-game winning streaks and those seven-game winning streaks, and it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a grind through [these] couple months. I think our players understand that.”
We've had our stretches of winning five in a row a few times this season, Dan Girardi told reporters following the Rangers loss to Pittsburgh. But now we're struggling to put two strong ones together, so now we're going to have to check ourselves out here and figure out what's going on.
The Rangers grind will continue with a chance to rebound from the 4-1 loss to the Penguins when they travel to Boston Saturday.
“It's been a little too many bounce-back games lately, but when we lose, we always come back with a strong effort,” Girardi told the Daily News
. “It would be a great bounce-back game for us against another top team in the conference.”