The start of the 2017-18 NHL season has not been kind to the New York Rangers, especially in the first period.
Four games into the year, the Blueshirts are 1-3-0, all three of those losses coming at home.
Most of their problems stem from the earliest portions of the game.
In the season opener against the Colorado Avalanche, the Rangers were trailing 2-0 within 11 minutes in what turned out to be a 4-2 loss. Their following game against the Toronto Maple Leafs saw them trail 5-1 after the first period.
Fast forward to Tuesday night, a 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues, New York trailed within 15 seconds after a bad turnover in the zone led to Carl Gunnarsson’s goal on the very first shot of the game.
It’s left New York searching for answers.
“I think in past years we were just simple. You look at the plays we try to make early on, they are kind of complicated plays and we end up turning over the puck,” forward Rick Nash said. “I think if we can all get on the same page and play north-south early on, just chip it in and get that fore-check going, we won’t have so many turnovers at our blue line.”
Captain and defenseman Ryan McDonagh wasn’t so kind in his assessments:
“Everyone’s really got to take a long look at what they’re doing to prepare here and understand you know one play can be the difference,” he said. ““It’s frustrating. We’re trying to put together a full game here and we haven’t done that very much at all in any game. It’s getting to a handful of games now where we need to start finding that right from the start.
It’s still extremely early in the season and the Rangers have plenty of time to right the ship, but playing within a loaded Metropolitan Division that features the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, last year’s President’s Trophy-winning Washington Capitals along with strong playoff contenders like the Columbus Blue Jackets, the clock is ticking.
“We lost a few games here. It’s important that we get the urgency and realize how important the next game is and the game after that,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. “You have to see it as a big game every night. It’s going to be a tight race this year and if you want to be in it, when it comes down to it, you have to ready now even though it’s October.”
Nash echoed those sentiments while realizing that every loss at home is a missed opportunity.
“There has to be [some concern],” he said. “With all these home games early on, these are the games when you get to March and April that really mean something. I think that there’s definitely an urgency to fix this and start winning some games.”
The Rangers have a small break from Madison Square Garden as they take on the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Friday night. But they return home shortly after for an enormous six-game homestand that starts with matchups against the New Jersey Devils, Penguins and crosstown rival Islanders.