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Game 41: AZ 5 NYR 0, ugliness continues, showing no signs of abating, Zucc

January 7, 2019, 7:52 AM ET [216 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers lost 5-0 to the Coyotes on Sunday in a game in which they didn't show up. Since the calendar flipped to 2019, New York has been outscored 18-3 in losing to Pittsburgh, Colorado and Arizona. Both the Avalanche and Coyotes came in riding losing streaks, facing the Blueshirts was just the antidote each needed to notch a win.

Game recap (don't watch on a full stomach):

David Quinn Post-Game:

Larry Brooks' column on Mats Zuccarello gave insight as to how difficult this stretch has been mentally on Zucc, knowing that he will be gone by February 25 and how that's impacted his game:

“I’m a human being, so obviously it has been on my mind and I’ve allowed it to get into my head, probably too much,” Zuccarello told The Post following Sunday afternoon’s 5-0 rout by the Coyotes in which the Rangers put up no fight and Henrik Lundqvist was pulled for the second straight game. “When it affects my game the way it has been, that’s on me; I shouldn’t have let it get to that point.

“I mean, I’m a professional and have a responsibility to the team and my teammates. It’s been hard. I let it get to me. I need to let go of it and get back to being the Zukey everyone knows. I thought actually that it was a little bit better that way in this game for me, but obviously not close to being enough.”

“People can say that I’m making enough money [$4.5 million] that I shouldn’t let any of this affect me, but I’m sorry, I have been here for nine years, and I am human,” said Zuccarello, who has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) overall. “I know I have a job to do, and I am going to do my best for as long as I’m here. I don’t want to let anyone down.”

“The last few weeks I have been too emotional about it,” Zuccarello said. “It’s a tough situation, but it’s also no excuse for me. It is what it is. I know that.”

This paragraph spells out the task ahead for GM Jeff Gorton. I wrote yesterday that this trading deadline and free agency is critical for Gorton and the organization. Gorton must hit a home run to set the franchise up right forbtye future. Moving Zuccarello and going with the kids, even more than we are seeing now, despite how ugly it is, is the prudent course of action.

It is beginning to fall apart for the Rangers. If David Quinn has much coaching to do — and he does — then the least Gorton can do is provide him with players who aren’t short-timers. The GM should do his best here to jump the market with Zuccarello and make a move as soon as it is feasible. The Jan. 20-28 bye week/All-Star break seems like an opportune time for it.

It may be only halfway through 2018-19, but Gorton’s responsibility is to tackle 2019-20 and beyond, and as quickly as possible. And a second mid-winter cleaning should begin with Zuccarello. It is the right thing for the team. It is the right thing for this very popular player. The sooner the better.

A few thoughts:

1) The ugliness continues - Henrik Lundqvist allowed five goals on 32 shots and was pulled in the second period for New York (17-17-7), which has been outscored 18-3 while losing three straight. The Rangers have lost 12 of their past 17 games (4-7-6) and are 5-9-5 since Thanksgiving.

The Rangers surrendered three goals in the second period, which represented the third straight game in which the team allowed at least three goals in a period and the eighth time in the last 19 games. The Rangers have allowed four goals or more (not including shootouts) in 10 of their last 16 matches. In case you needed to be told, that isn’t good.

2) Lack of confidence and talent - Zucc’s and Chris Kreider’s comments below show that each right now is in small supply. It’s amazing how after two road wins, granted, a pair of games that Lundqvist stole, the team was riding high. A week later, to a man, they look beaten and are struggling. Once they get down, they can’t reciver. I am not sure if that’s on the coaching staff or the players, but to have that divergent of a swing that quickly seems to not be the norm even in professional sports when confidence is sometimes thin.

Right now we’re a team that does not have a lot of confidence, I can tell you that much,” Zuccarello told The Post. “We’re not a team that’s going to win games because we get a couple of bounces going our way.

“We need to do everything the right way all the time to be able to win. It’s a very good league. When we don’t play at our best, we don’t have much of a chance. That’s not to be critical of anyone here. That’s the way it is. We were doing that before.”

“The last couple games have been, obviously, rough, and giving up a lot (goals),’’ Kreider said. “And we were quick to get frustrated tonight, myself included. It’s been a recurring thing, trying to do too much, instead of just doing our jobs to the best of our ability.’’

3) Poor starts and no energy - Quinn in his post game conference, excerpts of which are below, remarked in the poor starts and no energy. Both do go hand in hand. The lack of energy, which shouldn’t be the case, seeing how New York has so many gaps in the schedule earlier this season, is also linked to the poor starts. More energy might result in a better start and Vice versa. Here is a crazy concept, stay the heck out of the penalty box.

“We’ve just got to get off to better starts,’’ Quinn said. “We’re fragile mentally and physically right now, the way things are going. You lose three games like that, there’s a whole heap of problems right now, and we’ve got to address them.

“We had no legs today,’’ he continued. “We were clearly the slower team – they had more jump than we did. And it wasn’t just a certain group of guys; it looked like it was every man. We just didn’t have any energy. And you can’t play with no energy in this league.’’

I would love to say that this is going to get better, but it likely won’t. The defensive issues show no signs of abatement. Lundqvist is now having the same struggles he did in early 2018 when he sagged under the weight of carrying the team. Like then, this decline and his struggles came out of nowhere, possibly arising from the cumulative effect of the overall workload. The offense is offensive and several players look to be skating in mud, including the kids. Overall, few positives can be found.

Coming into the season, we all knew the rebuild was the primary focus. New York, after a 3-7-1 mark to begin the year, went 9-1-1 to falsely veg our hopes up. Now, they are playing somewhat like we expected but even if losing, I didn’t think the ugliness would be this bad. It’s one thing to lose, it’s another to get punmeled, especially by an Arizona team that has its own issues. Settle in boys, the next three months could be scary.

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