Rangers coach ‘concerned’ after Game 5 loss, but remains confident

NHL: Boston Bruins at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve got to hand it to New York Rangers coach Peter Laviolette. He’s a straight shooter.

When asked if he was concerned how the Rangers played in a dismal 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Monday, especially at home with a second chance to close out the series, Laviolette answered directly and honestly.

“Yeah. Anytime you don’t play up to your capabilities, you get concerned about that, yeah,” Laviolette said postgame.

No coach-speak here. Many coaches would have the dodged the question or answered in a way that wouldn’t challenge his team’s confidence.

Instead, Laviolette wasn’t afraid to admit there’s concern over how the Rangers showed little zip playing in front of their rabid fans against a desperate, talented opponent in Game 5. Nor how the Rangers failed to close out the Hurricanes for a second time after running out to a 3-0 series lead, not to mention carrying a 1-0 lead into the third period Monday.

And if you needed more directness from the coach, well, Laviolette delivered this take on the third period, which featured a complete Rangers meltdown amid four unanswered goals by the Hurricanes.

“We weren’t sharp tonight. We gave up way too many chances in the first period and then kind of died off after that,” Laviolette explained. “It wasn’t a night we were looking to have.

“It was more than the third period.”

Then he double-downed on that theme following another question.

“I don’t think we were sharp,” the coach stated. “You mentioned the third [period], I thought it went deeper than that.”

Related: Rangers disappoint in awful Game 5 loss to Hurricanes

Peter Laviolette knows Rangers have ‘responded’ to adversity throughout season

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

While safe to say that Laviolette appeared annoyed with the Rangers’ Game 5 effort, it’s equally as clear that he believes in this team, these players to bounce back in a big way Thursday when they play Game 6 in Raleigh.

Considering how they came out on the other end after a grim stretch of hockey in January, and their ability to withstand extended injury absences (Filip Chytil, Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko, Jacob Trouba, Blake Wheeler) this season, the Rangers have earned the benefit of the doubt from their coach after a poor showing in Game 5.

“I also know that this group has had games like that before and responded,” Laviolette explained. “There’s accountability that goes with that, from them themselves and from us (the coaches) and what we bring.”

Laviolette is in his first season as Rangers coach and he refuses to discuss — or even watch — what’s happened in the past. So, for him, there’s no reason to think about how the Blueshirts blew a 2-0 series lead to lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2022 Eastern Conference Final nor how they failed to close out the New Jersey Devils last spring when up 2-0 in that series.

“This group has always responded when we haven’t played to our potential, our guys have always responded,” Laviolette said about the 2023-24 Rangers.

To the coach, it’s a matter of getting back to work Tuesday and Wednesday, fixing issues within the Rangers structure and game and then putting a better foot forward in Game 6 on the road Thursday.

Concerned but confident.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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