Tension is unquestionably surrounding the New York Rangers.
First, you have a terse head coach that has a quick temperament both with his players and the media.
Then, you have players that have been maddeningly inconsistent from the top scorer to the goaltenders.
Pair that with a disjointed lineup and a merry-go-round of line combinations and you have a hit-or-miss recipe that results in an 8 - 2 victory as easily as a 6 - 0 defeat.
Last night, the Rangers felt the latter as they were unable to match any of the Montreal Canadiens intensity resulting in being shutout for the second time in as many games. Typically, a coach or player will say that they will take a positive aspect of a loss, learn from it, and move on.
But there hasn't been anything positive to focus on since the two blowout victories against the same Candiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. The heart, passion, and effort that snuck back into the Blueshirts on-ice play has dissipated. The sparks of Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky have faded. The tight cohesive defense has come undone like an old Christmas sweater.
Realistically, the Rangers were never expected to contend for the conference title let alone the Stanley Cup. They do have several rookies that are gaining valuable ice time and finding some success that, should the Rangers smartly keep them in the system, will pay major future dividends.
But regardless of the makeup of your team, the effort has to be there consistently and that's what is so discouraging on Broadway right now. Have the players given up on their fiery a-typical coaching staff? Perhaps, but that excuse only goes so far. The players have to perform and they simply aren't despite receiving handsome pay checks.
So as the Rangers face some critical home games this week, they will (again) need to find something in their gut to rally. Fortunately, the low-quality Eastern Conference will allow the Rangers to teeter in the playoff picture until they decide they want to play.
If, they want to play.