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The Rangers should get credit for staying in the picture; trade next for Flyers?

11/28/2014

There's something to be said about whether you're a person who views life as a glass half full or a glass half empty.

There's been much talk in New York of late about why the Rangers have been inconsistent so far this season, and we're not here to say they haven't been.

But I would suggest the Rangers deserve credit for just keeping their heads above water over the opening quarter of the season when you consider their blue-line injuries.

You're talking about a team that went nearly all of November without star captain Ryan McDonagh and went five weeks after the opening game of the season without Dan Boyle, missed John Moore for five games while he was suspended, while Kevin Klein also missed a pair of games. There were long stretches when just Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were regulars on defense.

To put it in perspective, when it comes to missing McDonagh and Boyle for that long, consider how you think the Montreal Canadiens would have fared without P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov for the same length of time, even if the Boyle and McDonagh injuries overlapped for only two weeks.

So, for the Rangers to have kept themselves a sliver over .500 during the opening quarter can easily be seen as an impressive show of survival, their season still very much alive and not shot down like a few other teams who couldn't overcome injuries early this season.

With McDonagh and Boyle both in the lineup Friday afternoon in Philadelphia, the captain's first game back since suffering a shoulder injury Nov. 1, you saw a glimpse of what we should see more of from the Blueshirts moving forward.

They handled a fragile Flyers team rather easily Friday, Boyle scoring his second goal in his past two games to open things up, Martin St. Louis getting career point No. 1,000 on his ninth goal of the season in the second period and Rick Nash crushing the Flyers' hopes with a short-handed goal in the third period.

Better things are ahead for Alain Vigneault's crew now that Boyle and McDonagh are both in the lineup at the same time. Count on it.

The Flyers? Oh, my.

This is a team playing like it is afraid to make a mistake. No confidence.

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek are having terrific seasons, but otherwise, there are fingers to point all over the place on this roster.

More than 20 games into the season and the Flyers are still trying to define their identity which to me is frightening for a team that should be better.

"I think our biggest issue has been our consistency," Flyers GM Ron Hextall told ESPN.com over the phone Friday evening. "You look at the Detroit game the other night, we played very well in the first period, and very well in the third period, albeit from behind, but the second period we played poorly. If we played 60 like we did 40, we would have won the game. Our consistency has been an issue game to game, period to period and at times even shift to shift."

The players have already been reamed out by Hextall, they've had a players-only meeting, what's next?

One would think likely a trade or two. I don't think Hextall can afford to wait much longer before acting.

But he's preaching patience, saying he won't make a move for the sake of it.

"We're not looking for a short-term fix," Hextall said. "We're looking for today and tomorrow but also for the future. So, we're not going to do something short-term that’s going to hurt us down the road.

"In saying that, if something is there that makes sense, we're certainly going to look at it. There's been more talk lately [with other teams], but nothing that makes sense for us at this point."

Before we ended the phone call, Hextall wanted to stress one last thing.

"On paper, our team is better than our record," he said. "But at some point we have to pick it up and get going here. And I think it comes down to the individuals playing better and coming together as a team. There's more in our room than we're getting. But we need to find it in a hurry."