Give Head Coach John Tortorella credit.
He wanted his players in shape and felt he achieved that following a strenuous training camp.
He wanted an up-tempo system. At the onset of the season, the Rangers were on top of the conference and the players were playing an aggressive forecheck and creating opportunities.
He wanted more scoring and he wanted more responsibility on his goaltender. Henrik Lundqvist was on top of his game and the Rangers were atop the NHL in scoring.
He brought in his own players he thought would be capable to play this type of game. Vinny Prospal, Ales Kotalik, Enver Lisin, and company all adapted well to their new team in the beginning.
The problem is, it hasn't sustained and the team has crashed. Hard.
While it's difficult to be critical of a team that has resurrected itself of late into the likes of a three-game winning streak, unlike Machiavelli, the ends don't necessarily justify the means.
For example, if not for Lundqvist the Rangers would not have won those three games, plain and simple.
Allowing greater than 30 shots a game is not a recipe for success. And there is, of course, the normal cast of characters contributing. Marian Gaborik, for one.
But the Rangers' woes lie in the statistics.
Thus far this season, the Rangers are averaging 2.69 goals per game. Last season? 2.44. 2007 - 08? 2.50.
So basically the addition of Gaborik increased total team goal scoring by about .25. Despite my admitted sheepishness with math, over an 82 game schedule, an additional .25 goals per game results in an additional 20.5 goals for the year.
Better, but overall not that impressive.
With a new system, new coach, new personnel, the results are basically the same. It appears that the scapegoats of conditioning and Tom Renney's defensive system had little to do with the problems surrounding this team.
In fact, the most disturbing statistic in comparison is with goals against per game. This season, the team is allowing 2.81 goals against. Last year, the team averaged 2.58. By season's end, the Rangers were scoring more than they were allowing.
This team, so far, has not.
Where is the change? Where is the style of play and commitment that fans were promised? Where is the entertainment?
Bottom line: there is little difference from last season and all the hype in the world can't disprove the fact that the Rangers are not the high-powered offense everyone had hoped.
It's true that a player like Gaborik thrives in Tortorella's system as well as speedy defensemen Matt Gilroy and Mike Del Zotto. The problem is that the system isn't paying enough dividends to warrant the play of those few players capable of that style.
As the coaching staff quickly learned, without solid defensive zone play, offense doesn't mean a blasted thing. So, the emphasis over the past couple weeks has been just that. Better play in their own end.
It began with the forwards not backchecking so deep in the zone. The opposing defensemen were being left wide open at the point because the wingers were so deep. Minor adjustment, big improvement.
And the defense has laid off a bit. While Del Zotto and company are still encouraged to rush the puck, players like Marc Staal is back to focusing on defense, not offense.
Has this come at the expense of some offense? Yes. And with the power play improved, it only further exemplifies the concern over the Rangers even strength play. But, between Lundqvist's improved play and the better defensive zone coverage, the Rangers have only allowed an average of 1.8 goals against in the past five games.
If the Rangers can continue to keep the goals against down, the scoring will eventually find it's way.
It may not be the way Tortorella wants the team to play, but it may be the only way that this group can find success.
More this afternoon, including our Game Day preview!