As the Rangers remain a work in progress, there is still much work to be done on mental toughness.
There are still too many times the team becomes deflated after surrendering a goal, as happened in Pittsburgh on Sunday when a 1-0 lead became a 3-1 deficit within 61 seconds late in the first period of the eventual 5-1 defeat.
“I think we’ve got to continue to work on being mentally tougher,” David Quinn said before Tuesday’s rematch against the Penguins. “I think sometimes we feel sorry for ourselves.
“I thought we got off to a really good start the other night, we’re up 1-0, did a good job killing a penalty, give up a goal and the next thing you know it’s three. We’ve got to do a better job of managing adversity. We’ve shown signs of coming out of it but I thought we reverted back to it the other night and really took the wind out of our sails.”
Those three Pittsburgh goals that came at 16:13, 16:52 and 17:14 of the first, were scored on consecutive shots against Alex Georgiev. When the Devils scored twice in 17 seconds on Saturday, those goals came on consecutive shots against Georgiev, who was set to back up Keith Kinkaid for this one.
“This is a game where things are going to happen, you’re going to give up a goal now and again, the other team is going to gain momentum,” the coach said. “We’ve got to do a better job of stopping it.
“Again, I thought there’d been some progress here lately, but certainly here the other night that wasn’t the case.”
The Blueshirts have killed 13 straight power plays over their last six games and 50 of the 53 they have faced over the last 16 matches dating back to Jan. 30. They ranked fourth in the NHL at 87.0 percent (67/77) after finishing 23rd last season at 77.4 percent. and 27th the season before that at 78.2 percent.
Rangers last finished in the top five in the Stanley Cup final year of 2013-14 with an 85.3 rate and last cleared 87 percent in 2008-09, when the Blueshirts led the NHL at 87.8 percent.
Following the comparative spree in which the Rangers scored a power-play goal in four straight games from Feb. 18 through Feb. 26 while going 5-for-19, the club is 2-for-13 over last five contests, drawing man-advantages twice or fewer in three of those games.
The Blueshirts are ranked 26th in the league on the power play at 15.5 pct. (13/84). Adam Fox and Chris Kreider have been on for 12 of the goals. The second unit has scored just once, that in the 3-2 shootout victory in Philadelphia on Feb. 18, when Kreider (dropped to the second unit for a short spell), Alexis Lafreniere, Pavel Buchnevich, Colin Blackwell and Anthony Bitetto were on for the goal.
Rangers defensemen have scored a sum of five goals at five-on-five, with Brendan Smith leading the way with two. Bitetto, K’Andre Miller and Libor Hajek each had one. Blueshirt defensemen scored 28 goals at five-on-five last year with Tony DeAngelo recording nine and Brady Skjei, seven.