Rangers home ice disadvantage a serious concern now

MSG (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The employees at Madison Square Garden have misplaced the red carpets. For some reason the red carpet has been rolled out from the visiting team’s locker room right to MSG’s playing surface. For a long time this has been the case for the Knicks, but now the infection has spread to the Rangers.
As the Blueshirts depart for a 3 game California road trip, somehow they have lost seven games in a row on home ice. It is almost unfathomable that a team that will approach 50 wins could be so poor at Madison Square Garden, of all places.

Mystifying Streak

What’s particularly mystifying is the Rangers got off to a positively beastly start at MSG. In a stretch of games starting October 23 thru November 6, they won 6 straight at home, averaging just under 5 goals a game, and giving up under 2 goals per game. They were downright scary.

All of the fast break highlight reel goals of October and November have almost dried up, but only at home. During the same time period that the Rangers have lost 7 in a row at home, they are an unreal 7-2 on the road. The frustrating part is the amount of high quality, grade A chances the team is getting nightly, and not converting.

If you look at the 7 straight home losses, individually, you find games they were lifeless, and some, namely the last 3, where they dominated but didn’t finish their opportunities. I’ve lost count of how many half-empty nets Ranger shooters have missed in games against Tampa, Florida, and Brooklyn. It’s like the large gorilla that now lives on Derek Stepan‘s shoulders, brings all of his relatives to spread around on his teammates backs at MSG.

Rick Nash epitomizes everything that is going wrong with the Rangers on home ice. He is playing great hockey but not finishing his prime, grade A scoring chances. And he is not alone. Just about every player on the team has blown at least one , and most more.

As Nash said in the interview above, the team plays simpler, and in straight lines on the road. They aren’t concerned with putting on a show. At times it seems like the blueshirts are trying to “pass” the puck into the net. By that I mean they are trying to make continuous cross ice passes until they have a yawning net to shoot at. And too frequently, they are missing the net on these type of chances. This is the very definition of playing tight.

As the season winds down, the Rangers have 3 games left on home ice. Two against Pittsburgh and 1 against Philadelphia. So, breaking the home ice schneid will not be easy. The last thing you want headed into the playoffs is the visiting team to have no fear of playing in front of a rabid Madison Square Garden crowd. Just for the team’s psyche, it would be a big help if they can win 2 of the last 3.

Zuccarello Celebrates Goal (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

If you want to be an eternal optimist you can hope that the Rangers win all of their road games in the playoffs which would lead to a parade down the canyon of heroes. The problem with that scenario is that the Rangers road dominance is negated by their history of failures against Carey Price and the Canadians. The law of averages do have a way of turning around. Like I said; the last 3 home games they truly dominated and in all three games all they needed was to hit one of those half-empty nets to get a better result. All of those games were one goal losses. The big thing is to play a more complete game, and finish a couple off with sticks raised at center ice.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: