First-year Rangers coach Gerard Gallant isn’t one for team meetings, and lengthy video sessions. But after his team was dominated by the Calgary Flames in a 5-1 loss at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Gallant felt like the time was right to show the players a few things.
"You’ve got to pick your spots,’’ Gallant said Tuesday before the Rangers took Wednesday off. "If you (show videos) every day, It's not going to be effective. You pick your spots. (Monday) night was the perfect time to do it, I guess, even though you don't ever want to do it … You’ve got to show them negativity once in a while. I'm a big positive guy, that keeps pushing positive, positive. But when it comes a time when you get a little bit loose … we wanted to correct some mistakes.’’
The Rangers had won all four games on their recent road trip before coming home to face the Flames in what was their seventh game in 12 days since the season began. The seven games represented the most games of any team in the league at that point, and while he didn’t want to reach for excuses, Gallant admitted he hoped his team’s mistakes could be chalked up to fatigue.
Turnovers were the biggest problem, he said. According to the NHL’s official stat sheet, the Rangers were guilty of committing 20 giveaways in the game, while Calgary was charged with six. The worst of it was the first period, according to Gallant, when the Rangers trailed 1-0 after a late goal by Calgary defenseman Christopher Tanev. They were down 2-0 after an early second period goal by Andrew Mangiapane.
"It was mostly, I think, the first period,’’ defenseman Patrik Nemeth said. "It was it was a bunch of stuff. I just don't think we were sharp. I don't think we were ready to play.’’
Nemeth said the Rangers had a little of the same malaise in the final game of the road trip, in Ottawa, where they fell behind 2-0, as well. In that game, though, they rallied for three goals in the final 5:23 to steal a 3-2 win and sweep the four-game road trip. They weren’t so fortunate on Monday, and clearly Gallant didn’t want the team’s play to slip any further.
"For sure, you want to stop the bleeding right away when you're not playing within your structure, when you're not paying attention to details,’’ Nemeth said. "You can't let that the slip away and be like, 'Oh, I know it's early in the season, let's just keep going.' ’’
Gallant said the Rangers, who made a concerted effort to add grit and sandpaper to their roster this season, weren’t gritty enough against the Flames, whom he called "a big, heavy team.’’ The Rangers outhit Calgary 27-20, but hits alone aren’t what Gallant is looking for.
"We had hits,’’ he said. "But those pucks that came from our defensemen to the half-wall, and we lost those battles (to Calgary), that's what I'm talking about. Those are the pucks that have got to get out, and get into the neutral zone … Too many times it stopped at the blue line and it went back in our zone.’’