When the 2022-23 NHL season began, expectations for the New York Rangers were pretty high for a young team that had gone on a deep playoff run the year before.
They grew even higher when the team won on opening night against the three-time defending Eastern Conference Champion Lightning.
Since then though, the Rangers haven’t met the high expectations thrust upon them. If anything, they’ve shown through two months of the season that they are a bad hockey team. It’s crazy to think of distinctions between good and bad teams just two months into the season, but the Rangers are doing the basic things that bad teams do in ANY sport.
Bad turnovers, confusing penalties, and inconsistent play have all been mixed into what the Rangers are now: a team with all the talent in the world that is looking for answers as to why they keep losing. Their current three-game losing streak is a prime example.
In New York’s last three games, they’ve played the Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, and New Jersey Devils. They came out flat against the Ducks last week and gave the opposing team their first regulation win all year. A loss like that, while damaging can be rectified if they play well next time.
Except the next time came and the Rangers blew a 3-0 lead in the final period to lose 4-3 to Connor McDavid and the Oilers. To make matters worse, New York’s leadership had been called into question when Leon Draisaitl appeared to knock Jacob Trouba’s stick out of his hands and the Rangers’ captain didn’t do anything about it.
It only got worse on Monday night when a 2-0 early game lead was squandered as the Rangers were overwhelmed by the Devils in their home stadium. In THAT game, a loud contingent of Devils fans jeered at Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin after he gave up four goals through the first two periods.
All three games show a bigger picture here for the New York Rangers: they are a team without an identity except for finding ways to lose hockey games.
At 10-9-4, it’s hard to say the season is over for the Blueshirts. With a reigning Vezina winner in net, top players at almost every key position, and young talent that could break out, it’s easy to see how the season could be turned around. But the team itself is reeling and looking for answers to the same questions they’ve been asked over the last two months.
No one seems to know how to break this rut.
“We keep saying we got to play a full 60, but you just can’t keep talking about it. We got to go out there and do it.” Ryan Lindgren said after Monday’s 5-3 loss to New Jersey.
It’s not only on the players either. Gerard Gallant, hired to get the most out of a young team with plenty of talent, has missed key moments when his players needed him most. In several recent games with the opposing team holding onto momentum, no timeouts were called by the Rangers coaching staff to give the team a chance to reset.
The Rangers’ lack of answers in the locker room certainly sounds like a common theme that is with the coaching staff as well.
“The team’s a problem. The whole team, the coaches, we’ve got to turn it around.” Gallant said.
Can the early season problems be fixed for the Rangers? Absolutely. Will they? That’s another story.
At some point in the season, the Rangers’ deficiencies as a team aren’t just about a team finding their stride early in the season. It just shows they aren’t a good hockey team.