In 1971, the rock band ‘The Who’ released the song “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” While the lyrics suggest this to be a political, call to action tune, it certainly could pertain to New York Rangers fans this season. In light of last night’s inexcusable loss to the Florida Panthers, the Blueshirt faithful could not be blamed if they are planning a revolution of sorts of their own.
Coming off back to back victories earlier in the week that put them back into playoff position, the Rangers looked to inject a jolt of offensive life into their struggling attack with the recall of young, talented winger Chris Kreider. Buoyed by a three goal ‘explosion’ in New Jersey on Tuesday, and with one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL skating into their house, all seemed in place for an easy victory and another step up in the Eastern Conference standings. Then they pulled back the curtain, and the Rangers flopped on Broadway.
Another terrible start led to another early deficit. It wasn’t till midway through the first period when New York, already down 1-0, decided to start playing hockey. By then, they had allowed the Immortal Jacob Markstrom to settle in and get comfortable, something most goaltenders feel when they go up against the Rangers this season.
Sure, the eternal optimist can look at the Rangers shot total of 46 and their 77 attempts and assume they dominated the majority of the game. They wouldn’t be wrong. The Rangers were by far the better team from the ten minute mark of the first period on. However, that only serves to once again bring up the million dollar question; why can’t this team score goals? Look at the roster, scan the names, and try to figure out how this team can score one goal on 46 shots against Florida on home ice.
The culprits are familiar. While Marian Gaborik finally got on the board, breaking Markstom’s improbable shutout bid at 16:12 of the third, that was tempered by another poor performance by Brad Richards, once again a non-factor. It’s hard to sustain offense when you’re number one center and playmaker goes AWOL for games at a time. Number 19, when he does have opportunities, is missing the net at an alarming rate, inexcusable when you are the pivot between Gaborik and Rick Nash. There’s no chance in hell for a rebound opportunity if the puck is slamming off the glass and out of the zone. Kreider played hard and did not commit any acts that will have him on the next train back to Connecticut, but he didn’t generate much offense either.
The Ranger’s third and fourth lines are also non-existent offensively, contributing little to the teams attack. It’s okay to be a role player and play sound, defensive hockey , win some defensive zone faceoffs and match up against the opponents top lines. But an occasional goal would be nice. Take a look at these dreadful numbers; Brian Boyle (1 goal), Darroll Powe (zero), JT Miller (2), and Jeff Halpern (zero). Taylor Pyatt has as many (four) as Richards, which also tells you how bad Broadway Brad has been. So the Rangers can continue to pile up the shots on goal, but if two of their four lines and their top center can’t hit the net to save their lives, what difference does it make?
Earlier this month, five wins in six games were followed by three straight lifeless losses. Then came the back to back wins over Carolina and Jersey that got Ranger fans excited once again. Now this. Who knows what comes next, or who shows up Sunday against Washington. If New York does play well and wins the game, the Garden crowd would be wise to take a cue from the Who, and not order Stanley Cup Playoff tickets just yet. Then again, they could harken back to another Who song, and serenade their team with the question we’ve been asking about the Rangers all season. “Who are you?”
Billy Pepitone is a retired New York City Police Officer turned author and hockey writer. He has published two sports novels, most recently the murder/mystery ‘Ice Cold’ which revolves around the New York Rangers. A Ranger fan for over 35 years, Billy has covered the Blueshirts for NYRangers101.com and ‘The Instigators’ blog talk radio show.