Rangers battling consistency issues amid distractions

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For as many close games as the Rangers have had during this truncated season, several losses can be attributed to self-inflicted mistakes.

Taking the team’s last loss heading into Friday’s matchup with the Bruins for example, a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Flyers on Wednesday, the Rangers took eight penalties – with five of them coming after the first period. Two were for delay of game in the middle frame, while another was their second too many men on the ice penalty of the night, even though it was called in the final nine seconds of the contest.

If it’s not penalties or foolish mistakes hindering the Rangers, it’s a lack of mental toughness. It’s something that head coach David Quinn says that he’s harped on in the locker room in recent weeks.

While there are many reasons why this young Blueshirts squad hasn’t been as mentally sharp as they should be, Quinn believes it is up to the team to block out all the outside noise of this eventful season and just play their game.

Alexis Lafreniere (13) battles for the puck against the Flyers.
Alexis Lafreniere (13) battles for the puck against the Flyers.
AP Photo

“I think there could be a variety of reasons why we weren’t mentally sharp the other night,” he said Friday afternoon. “There’s been a lot going on but that’s a responsibility of the players and the coaching staff to make sure that stuff doesn’t get in the way of us performing at the level that we perform at. We did a lot of good things the other night, but it looked a little bit like last year, where we did some good things but really shot ourselves in the foot too often.

“That hasn’t happened as much this year, so we just got to get back to playing that sound structured game as we all referred to in Washington and we just haven’t done it consistently enough lately. There’s been too much peaks and valleys over the last week and a half. We’ve had a good one and a bad one, a good one, and a bad one. So we’ve got to find that consistency.”

There’s no question this 2020-21 season has been unlike any other in more ways than one. The coronavirus pandemic is still ravaging the country, and as outbreaks continue to spread from team to team, the league has implemented new protocols a few times through the first six weeks of the season.

The Rangers have been rather lucky, but have had their fair share of players designated to the COVID-19 Protocol list, with Kaapo Kakko and K’Andre Miller the most recent additions.

Then there’s the off-ice distractions that the Rangers, in particular, have been subjected to. From a physical altercation between teammates following a loss that resulted in Tony DeAngelo’s banishment, to star player Artemi Panarin having to take a leave of absence amid a political scandal in his home country of Russia, the disturbances have been in abundance for the Rangers.

But every team is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and has their own forms of diversions to ignore. The Rangers simply need to find a way to dial themselves back in.

“I think it’s a little bit of mentality,” defenseman Adam Fox said Wednesday. “Obviously you take as many penalties as we did [Wednesday] and a good team like [the Flyers] will capitalize on a few chances. We capitalized on some of our power play chances too.

“But in the end, you give them that many grade-A chances – like they had three breakaways in the span of five minutes there in the third – and it’s tough to win games against a team like that when you’re playing that reckless and sloppy.”

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