NEW YORK – No Chris Drury. No Marian Gaborik. No Vinny Prospal.
It’s going to be tough for the Rangers to score without their two best from last season and their captain on the sideline. And these next two months will tell the tale of the season, because New York can’t afford to dig a hole and pray for a favorable second half.
Sure the Blues Brothers can play without the band fully together, but the Blueshirts, well, that’s another story.
Yet, the Rangers will play on and John Tortorella has made a decree to his team.
“There’s no way we are going to back off,” said center Eric Christiensen. “We are going to play aggressively. We had a lot of guys who played really well in the pre-season. Artie [Anisimov] played really well, [Derek Stepan]’s played great. I don’t know how many people thought he would come in and make the team. We have [Alexi] Frolov, [Michael] Del Zotto, Callie [Ryan Callahan], Dubi [Brandon Dubinsky]. It can’t be a one man team. Our Captain and best player – that’s a tough blow, but we can’t fold and hang on for dear life.”
Sure it’s been only four games, but with the team 1-2-1 and another home loss, this time 3-1 to the Colorado Avalanche, the Blueshirts are searching for answers. Does this team have what it takes to hang around the Eastern Conference, or is this just a lost year?
To a man, they all vowed the press on- why wouldn’t they? But still know it’s going to be tough to put the scoring together without their top players.
“We can’t focus on who is out,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “We have to do it together. What is good about this team is we have four lines goings. I don’t think there’s much focus on the first line. We have four lines going that is going to work real hard and that’s a good thing. Obviously they are key players, but there’s nothing we can do right now.”
Yet when you look at the lines the Rangers are putting on the ice, there’s no first line. And the second line with Anisimov centering Callahan and Dubinsky is a third line a good team and a second line in a thin lineup. So for Tortorella to throw that out as his top scoring chance shows the lack of depth the Rangers have in the organization.
And tonight’s game proved the point, because after tying the score at one on Frolov’s first goal as a Ranger with less than two minutes left in the first, the offense ended. Sure there were chances in the second, but nothing converted and the door was left open for two quick scores by Colorado in the third.
“That third goal was a real ugly goal – a fluke,” Christensen said. “It affected us. So night’s you respond and some night’s it’s tougher. They played well. They are fast and played with a great pace. We didn’t get a lot of breaks.”
And then there’s the power play – a bane for even the most talented Ranger teams over the past few seasons – 0-5 tonight, while Colorado was 2-3. There just can’t be those types of special team chances on a depleted team.
“Just some bad luck I thought,” Christensen said. “That first power play we had, we had it in their zone for at least three quarters of it. We had some chances. They are a fast team and put a lot of pressure on us. That is one of the most difficult things on a power play, is getting control. It is tough to gain entry on some of those.”
And it will be tough for the Rangers over the next few weeks. Fortunately the schedule is in the Rangers favor as they have two days off this week before going to Toronto and then another two days off before playing the Devils at home on Sunday, so maybe the calendar is the Rangers friend.
“Especially after some tough losses we have two games to work on what didn’t work and have a good practice, said defenseman Dan Girardi. “When we start playing more games, it will be good with a quick turnaround and play right again.”
But for right now, the Rangers will be holding on until the band gets back together.