What now for the Rangers?
John Tortorella politely declined to discuss any aspect of last night's debacle in Nassau Coliseum, by far the worst Rangers loss this season.
As I wrote from the game, it's a real blow to the hard-hat reputation the Rangers have developed this season to be outworked in such a crucial game. Now, with four games left and the Hurricanes on their heels, we'll take a deeper look here at what the Rangers can do, if anything, to stop this slide.
1. Change up the power play
In this five-goals-in-five-games stretch for the Rangers, the power play is 0-for-16, culminating in last night's 0-for-8 embarrassment. The main thing the Rangers did last night on the PP was stand still -- there was little to no player movement, just puck movement, which is the same problem that's plagued the PP during its dry spells this season.
Bryan McCabe has added the point shot threat since he arrived, but opposing penalty killers are keying on him and making sure his shooting lane is never open. Without a big bomber to play opposite him, the Rangers are stagnant.
When Mats Zuccarello was at the point of the key 71-second 5-on-3 in the first last night, it was worse. Zuccarello is not a threat to blast from the point, yet he stood still as well. That won't keep the rookie in the lineup. Erik Christensen, who has a quick release and a willingness to shoot, should get a little more PP time.
2. Bring back Matt Gilroy
He's not going to be a difference-maker as a third-pair defenseman, but Gilroy can creat with his speed, which is something the Rangers have gotten none of lately. Watching Jack Hillen join the rush a dozen times for the Islanders last night reminded me that, with the Rangers' top four D-men focused on own-zone play primarily, Gilroy gave them a little push at times on the rush. McCabe doesn't give them that, and I wouldn't be averse to sitting McCabe for Gilroy either Sunday in Philly or Monday at home against Boston to see what it brings.
3. Get more pucks on net
This is a hockey chestnut as old as Gordie Howe, but the Rangers have missed the net 38 times in their last two games. Shots that miss the net are the best way to generate opposing scoring chances; you're better off throwing a lower-percentage shot at the net and seeing what happens. Worst you can get is an offensive-zone draw; best is a nice rebound to encourage net-crashing. Seems simple for us who watch, but I'd guess it's a point of emphasis in meetings tomorrow too.
4. Trust your rep -- you've earned it
The Rangers have allowed 5+ goals eight times this season, counting last night -- three of them to the Islanders, amazingly. They're 5-1-1 in the following, 5-0-0 in the last five. This team seems to take it personally when they let down defensively. The Flyers are on a 6-7-3 run, not exactly tearing things up themselves, and this seems the most likely playoff matchup for the Rangers, should they make it.