Rangers eager to get back on track


GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- It's been one week since the Rangers' 2013-14 season took an abrupt and early detour -- a 9-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks that seemed to signal catastrophe.

That could have been a one-off, of course, had they recovered quickly.

They didn't.

The spanking they received from the Sharks was followed by another atrocious loss two nights later, as they were blown out of Anaheim with a 6-0 blanking by the Ducks.

There was some improvement in the team's 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, the last stop in what turned out to be a calamitous five-game trip out West, but the team has yet to shake its worrisome 1-4-0 start to the season.

"I don't think there's a sense of panic, but there definitely needs to be, and is, a sense of urgency," said team captain Ryan Callahan.

That much is true, and is certainly worth highlighting. A team can't win a division title or secure a playoff berth in the first two weeks of the season, but the Rangers have to be wary of just how big of a hole they dig.

As CBC's Elliotte Friedman pointed out in his weekly "30 Thoughts" column, only three teams from 2005-06 through 2011-12 who were four points out of a playoff spot by Nov. 1 went on to earn a spot in the postseason.

As it stands on Oct. 15, the Rangers are three points back.

Granted, it is far too early to start drawing any sort of statistical conclusions based on five games of an 82-game season.

That's good for the Rangers, considering some of their advanced stats are horrendous. The team ranks 27th in the league in Corsi with 44.6 percent (meaning they have shot only 44.6 percent of all shots taken during their games) and dead last (922) in PDO (shooting percentage plus save percentage), according to hockeyanalysis.com.

Too soon to geek out and get worried? Yes, but 10, 20 games should serve as a better barometer. By then, those numbers need to improve or the Rangers' outlook will be bleak.

Changes have already come for the struggling squad, as the team waived beloved backup Martin Biron and rugged winger Arron Asham and recalled 26-year-old netminder Cam Talbot and young prospect J.T. Miller in their stead.

"When things change, you always feel the pressure," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said on Monday.

Miller's presence could put some other players' ice time in jeopardy if things don't turn around quickly. Thought the 20-year-old prospect skated on the fourth line in practice Tuesday, Alain Vigneault indicated he could push someone out of a top-six forward spot should his play warrant such a promotion.

"Some guys’ production is not where it needs to be to stay in those spots [in] the long term. So they’re aware of that," he said. "I don’t have to mention any names. But [Miller] would be one of the possibilities of moving up there if people don’t produce."

One positive change that should help the Rangers? They have returned to the Eastern time zone, where they will play three games with reasonable travel beginning with Wednesday's match in D.C. against the Washington Capitals.

The team will not play its season opener at Madison Square Garden until Oct. 28.

"I don't think we're in for a 'smoother go' but I do believe though we're going to be in the right environment on a much more frequent basis," coach Alain Vigneault said after the team's second straight day of practice at the team's training facility in Westchester. "It's easier to work on things in your building, in your environment, in your training facility, in your video room, in your workout room than it is when you're going from hotel to another."

"We're going to have a lot of time here to work on different things that I think are going to be real beneficial for our group," Vigneault said.