Rangers Practice, Travel to St. Louis: "There Are No Excuses"
The sun rose Friday and the Rangers went back to work, skating at the Anaheim Ducks practice facility before chartering to St. Louis where they will play the Blues Saturday night. When that plane lifts off, the Rangers will have left behind a 1-3-0 start to the season out west, and back-to-back shocking defeats in California by an aggregate 15-2 score.
Clearly it's not so simple to just board a plane and say that the past is in the past. On Friday the Rangers set about trying to fix multiple areas where leaks have sprung, especially in their last two games where they were defeated 9-2 in San Jose on Tuesday and 6-0 in Anaheim on Thursday.
"You try to forget about it, but it's not easy when you get killed like that," forward Benoit Pouliot told BlueshirtsUnited.com. "It's frustrating because you can't get it out of your head. But you've got to move on, there's another game to play (Saturday) and a lot more games to go (in the season). There's no need to panic."
Head coach Alain Vigneault made it clear that he believed Tuesday's defeat was more about lack of effort while Thursday's was more about lack of execution. He also made it crystal clear that it is up to him as the team's head coach to find a way to bring his team out of this funk.
Players agreed that the overall team effort was better in Anaheim, but that their execution---particularly in the defensive zone---was downright deplorable and unacceptable.
"Our puck management is not very good right now," Dan Girardi stated flatly. "We're just giving pucks away, not putting the puck down by their hash marks, making them go down and get it. We are making life too easy for the other teams."
Added team captain Ryan Callahan, who was credited with five shots on goal and three hits Thursday, "This is completely unacceptable."
Long after Thursday's result was final---a good half hour or so---Henrik Lundqvist sat alone in the visitors' dressing room at Honda Center, trying to collect his thoughts and wrap his arms around what has happened these past two games. His emotions ranged from thoughtful, to angry, to determined, to confused. At all times he was forthright and honest when speaking with reporters.
"It's just an awful feeling out there right now," Lundqvist said in a flat voice. "We are just not getting it down, and I don't have an explanation for it. We're just so far from where we need to be."
Lundqvist currently sports an uncharacteristically high 4.31 goals against average and un-Henrik like .879 save percentage through four starts. His game is far from spot on, and the team's play in front of him and Martin Biron has been poor, hence the 15 goals surrendered the past two games--a fairly unimaginable number.
"I have to be better, we have to be better, and let's not point any fingers," said Lundqvist. "Bottom line is we have to figure it out. We have to find a way to give each other confidence."
Derick Brassard admitted that the team's confidence has been shaken---even noting that "guys are nervous with the puck" the past two games---but others have noted that stringing together some strong performances will restore confidence on short order. That possibility comes into play Saturday when the Rangers face another very deep and talented team, the St. Louis Blues, before flying back home for a couple of days. Then it's back on the road for division games against Washington and New Jersey next week.
"There are no excuses," stated Brad Richards. "We just need to come up with some answers."