The keys to victory for the New York Rangers in yesterdays matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes fell by the wayside a mere 3:11 into the game as some nifty puck movement against the flatfooted Blueshirts resulted in a tip-in goal by Patrick Dwyer.
Heart, passion, complete play, and good decision making were all absent in a must-win home game against the Eastern Conference's bottom feeder.
Not only was the game a blowout, but the Rangers bowed out and, despite a highly misleading 38 shots on goal, never looked like a team that wanted to win.
When a team struggles, you look to small signs of effort such as finishing checks, crashing the net, maybe a fight, or at least some vocalization on the bench. For the Rangers, all of these facets were non-existent and there was not one player who exemplified 100% effort.
Even the usual hardworkers showed frustration and lacked discipline. Suddenly snake-bitten Marian Gaborik fanned on multiple opportunities in the slot. The visibly-tiring Henrik Lundqvist let in a couple questionable goals.
And the list goes on.
However, give Carolina credit for doing what the Rangers couldn't. They were hard on the puck. They generated pressure and established an offensive zone presence.
They outworked the Blueshirts in all aspects of the game.
This discussion is not new to the Rangers. From the media to coaching staff, everyone continuously begs the question, "Why don't they care?" How do you get highly paid professional athletes to perform and acknowledge that their commitment must be greater than their pay check?
It has been suggested that Head Coach John Tortorella simply can't adapt to the changes in coaching in the post-lockout era. The argument has its merit, but coaching is still coaching regardless of the sport, the era, or the professional level.
A coach has to rally and inspire the top efforts from their players.
There is a great divide between these players and their coaching staff. Sean Avery said as much between periods to Al Trautwig when he explained that the team needs to be on the same page in order to get out of this funk.
After 40+ games, that is a sorry state of affairs.
Of course, this loss will further spark the debate as to the approach the Rangers take with the rest of the season. I was on the "go-for-broke-with-youth" train, but Blueshirt Bulletin contributor and Newsday's Rangers Beat Writer Steve Zipay presented an alternative perspective worth considering.
Yes, the Rangers have some bad veteran contracts. However, you have an elite scorer and goaltender on your team. Do you risk losing their efforts in their prime for the sake of a rebuild?
Bringing in an elite player like Ilya Kovalchuk may bankrupt some of your youth, but it takes advantage of Gaborik and Lundqvist's strong play. If the Rangers aren't going to go for it, why waste the talents of your top players.
This argument also reared its head during Jaromir Jagrs tenure in New York. He was playing elite hockey, but had little support. Thus, his talents were wasted and the Rangers didn't compete for a Cup.
Now, the Rangers are obviously more than one player away from a Stanley Cup Championship. But perhaps the youth movement should hold off a bit in favor of filling some voids and looking to make a charge in the wide-open Eastern Conference.
These will be the topics mulled over by Rangers management over the next couple weeks prior to the Olympic break. Expect changes sooner rather than later as the parity in the conference will force some teams to alter their roster in favor of playing more games with their upgraded lineup.
Whatever the Rangers decide, the on-ice product has to be better or all the changes in the world won't make a difference.