The New York Rangers have hit their first rut of the 2015-16 season.
And it caused Alain Vigneault to publicly challenge his team.
“We all need to man up,” said Vigneault following the Rangers’ soporific 3-0 loss to the Flyers Saturday afternoon at the Garden. The Rangers have dropped three straight, and begin a stretch of three games in four days Monday against Carolina.
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“I need to get this group to play better and I am very confident that this group knows the right way to play. I am very confident that we have the right leadership in that dressing room. I am very confident that they know we can execute and play a lot better than we are right now.”
Against a Flyers team that is a 9-10-5 record and are ranked 30th in the NHL in total goals scored with 44, the Rangers only generated 24 shots on goal and attempted just 52 shots.
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“During every season, Individually and collectively you are challenged mentally, sometimes through your play and sometimes through the demands of the schedule. I feel that this group knows how to respond. Obviously it would be hard to tell by the way we are playing now, but I know they’re a very strong group,” Vigneault said.
“My only concern is to find the areas that this group needs to be better, find ways to make our players understand that. That’s what coaches do: We try to improve areas that need improving and try to continue the right things you’re doing. Now there is obviously room for improvement in a few categories."
Offensive production would be as good a place as any to start. In the three regulation losses to Montreal, Boston and Philadelphia—all conference rivals—the Rangers scored four goals in 180 minutes.
When pressed about his thoughts on his team's play as a collective, Vigneault acknowledged the Rangers had not been as crisp as their 16-6-2 record would otherwise indicate.
“For some part of some games we haven’t been as good as we can be. We’ve probably gotten some of those wins because of extraordinary goaltending. I thought we had another extraordinary goaltending performance,” Vigneault said. Reserve goaltender Antti Raanta made 31 saves against the Flyers Saturday. “But the rest of our game was absent. So we all learn lessons as individuals and teams. I think we got one and hopefully we’ll be good (against Carolina)."
You can follow NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman