Chris Kreider has constantly found himself saying throughout the 2021 season that he and his New York Rangers teammates have to “hate this feeling of losing.”
But the losing has not stopped, even if there have been some incremental improvements.
A 5-2 loss to a New Jersey Devils team that hadn’t played in two weeks because of a COVID-19 outbreak proved to be the Rangers’ fourth-straight loss, dropping their record to a dismal 4-7-3 through 14 games.
“I know I sound like a broken record and have said this over and over, but, you can’t do some things well and get away from it and be excited because you generated a little bit of offense,” Kreider said as the Rangers’ defense, which had shown improvement in recent days, gave up three unanswered goals in the third period. “You have to build on the foundation.”
They’re just one point above the last-place Buffalo Sabres in the East Division despite playing two more games and one point behind the Devils, who have played four fewer games.
Artemi Panarin is dealing with a lower-body injury, Mika Zibanejad continues to struggle to find his scoring touch, and the Rangers’ second-best center, Filip Chytil, is on the league’s COVID protocol list.
Those remaining have been less than impressive, especially to a soured Kreider.
“The entire group, each guy has to hold themselves accountable,” Kreider said. “We were listless, lifeless, and it was unacceptable. It has to be better going forward.
“It doesn’t start with just anyone, it starts with every single guy in that room and we know it.”
On paper, at least, the Rangers shouldn’t be anywhere near their current state with their 11 points being more than only the Sabres and Ottawa Senators across the entire NHL.
But their defense that ranks 11th in goals allowed has been complemented by an offense that has scored just 33 times this year — fifth-worst in the league.
“You wonder why,” Rangers head coach David Quinn said. “We’re in a situation where we haven’t won an awful lot. We have to understand the importance and difference between winning and losing and what you need to do to do it.”
It’s up to Quinn to find those answers and get the Rangers out of their current funk.
Instead, it’s Kreider and Zibanejad who are at least offering solutions; even if they aren’t practicing what they preach.
“We were lacking a little bit of desperation, to be honest with you,” Zibanejad said. “We’ve got to find a way to get it done.”