Rangers forward Chris Kreider, born in Boxford, Mass., had a message for everyone prior to Super Bowl XLIX.
“Go Pats,” Kreider said at the Garden Saturday night with a smile.
Teammate Tanner Glass, who hails from Regina, Saskatchewan, saw the big game a bit differently.
“Let’s go ’Hawks,” Glass said. “I’m a West Coast guy, and I love Marshawn. I had him on my fantasy team.”
Kreider thumped Glass in the team’s fantasy football championship this NFL season, earning bragging rights in the locker room for the rest of the year.
As the Rangers (28-15-4, 60 points) return from Sunday’s off-day to host the Florida Panthers (21-16-10, 52 points) at the Garden, however, Kreider and Glass both will be back on the same page of trying to clean up a recently sloppy Blueshirts game.
“You’re going to have stretches or a period or a game in any season when there’s a lull,” Glass said. “The overall picture is we are not happy with the way we’ve played the last three games. But we’re going to address it, and you have to have that maturity and poise in your game to come out the next period or the next game and play well.”
The Rangers are just 4-4-0 in their last eight games and 1-2-0 since the All-Star break, losing to the Islanders on the road, 4-1, and the Canadiens at home, 1-0, before beating Carolina, 4-1, at the Garden on Saturday.
The offense, however, has gone into a deep freeze, and don’t fool yourself thinking the outburst against Carolina is the remedy: The ’Canes were playing their second game of a back-to-back, and only in the game’s second half when they lost their legs and Alain Vigneault completely reformed his lines did New York’s offense show any signs of life.
Blaming the forwards alone, though, would be folly. The defensemen are equally to blame, and there is a disconnect between the back and front ends making that all-important “first pass” to start each attack.
Vigneault said Saturday that his advice to his defensemen is the same advice Don Cherry used to give to the great Bobby Orr on the Boston Bruins’ blue line: “Easy early.”
“Whatever is closest and available, sometimes that’s your best option,” Vigneault said of his defensemen needing to simplify and move the puck quickly.
Glass, though, said that the forwards “may be getting far from the puck at times,” drawing the defensemen into attempting longer, riskier passes. He said it’s important for the forwards to stay available to support the defensemen and receive that simple first pass, even if Vigneault’s old mantra on that point seems counterintuitive to playing fast.
“When I was with A.V. in Vancouver, for the centers he used to say ‘Low and slow,’” Glass said.
Defensemen Dan Boyle, perhaps more than any player, has failed to play reliably with and without the puck this season. His turnovers and passes from the back sometimes make his mantra seem more like “risky, late” than “easy, early.”
He is a former Stanley Cup winner who is used to controlling the game’s pace and carrying the puck up ice, however, and therefore his adjustment with the Rangers hasn’t come easily.
“It’s been a struggle to find my game within the system that they play,” Boyle said in an MSG first intermission interview on Saturday.
Before finding their games against Florida on Monday, though, many of the Rangers found a couch on Sunday just like the rest of America to take in the biggest game of the year.
BY Pat Leonard
February 1, 10:32AM
The likelihood of changes to the Rangers’ make-up before the March 2 trade deadline is growing. Head coach Alain Vigneault did not dodge that possibility Saturday evening before his team beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-1, at the Garden, when ask…
BY Pat Leonard
January 31, 11:59PM
The entire Garden fell silent when Henrik Lundqvist took Brad Malone’s shot to the throat 3:02 into Saturday’s second period and began writhing in pain in the crease. Teammate Ryan McDonagh had been tying up a Hurricane in front of the net, and…
BY Pat Leonard
January 31, 7:03PM
Alain Vigneault made some not-so-“subtle” changes, as he tried to bill them, to his forward lines for Saturday night’s game at the Garden against the Carolina Hurricanes. With the Rangers’ offense ice-cold lately, Vigneault put last game’s healt…