The Rangers knew going into this past four-game road trip, particularly the back end against the Oilers and Flames, it was going to serve as a measuring stick.
Let’s just say, the Blueshirts didn’t stand very tall in comparison and headed back home a lot more grounded. After letting third-period leads slip through their fingers and falling in overtime both in Vancouver and Edmonton, the Rangers were then run out of Calgary during a disconcerting 6-0 loss in which they watched the likes of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk run up the score.
For all the pride that built from starting the season 6-2-1, which was largely due to all-star play from goalie Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers are certainly a little more even-keeled coming home.
Chris Kreider, one of the team’s six alternate captains, asserted that the Rangers don’t want what happened at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday against the Flames to ever happen again.
“We need to go home and we need to get better in a hurry,” he said. “We need to work on our process. Doesn’t matter what the score is in the game, we need to play the same way. We need to trust each other and trust the system and can’t get away from that regardless of the situation and the context. You’ve got to lean on your system, lean on each other and continue to do the little things over and over.
“We’re showing flashes here and there, we’re showing flashes being good on the walls, forechecking well. Good teams don’t show flashes, they do it consistently over and over and over again. I know it’s a long year but it’s time for us to figure it out in a hurry.”
There’s been accountability from the Rangers, who have acknowledged their shortcomings in giving a full 60-minute effort and often getting too cute with their play. Kreider singled himself out on Saturday night, saying he had plenty of scoring chances on his stick he should’ve capitalized on.
“I certainly had a bunch of really high-quality looks tonight and either muffed it or toed them,” the longest tenured Ranger said. “[I] didn’t have nearly enough poise, had an opportunity to change the tide of the game. So I got to be better when I get those opportunities.
“But as a group, we need to at least miss on the net, especially when the goalie is playing like that to give ourselves a chance to get second or third opportunities.”
Aside from the Islanders, who have to play the first 13 games of their season on the road as their new UBS Arena nears completion, the Rangers’ schedule has been one of the most taxing. They’ve played nine of their first 12 games on the road, with three separate trips over the Canadian border to face teams they haven’t seen in two years.
“I hope that’s what it was,” head coach Gerard Gallant said when asked if his team simply hit a wall at the end of this trip. “We were obviously pretty bad [Saturday night], but it’s been a grind. I’m glad we’re done playing Calgary, put it that way.”
The Rangers schedule is about to get substantially lighter in the coming weeks, with three of their next four played at home before their last trek to Canada until March. They won’t be able to lean on that as an excuse.
“We need to establish the Garden as a tough place to play for opposing teams,” Barclay Goodrow said. “As we get more and more home games, we need to start going on a roll at home.”