Since the Rangers loss to the Penguins Sunday night, which dropped their record to 0-2-0 to start the season, I've received a ton of e-mails, tweets and Facebook messages from readers asking me to talk them off the ledge.
While I can say for sure that if you think the season is over after just two games, you're dead wrong, I do have some legit concerns about the state of the team.
It's not so much that they're losing, it's how they're doing it. One thing you could always count on from last year's Rangers team was their battle level. They didn't win every game, but their opponent knew going in they would have to fight the Blueshirts for every inch on the ice.
They forechecked hard, threw themselves in front of every shot, had tons of energy and always stood up for one another.
And sadly I have yet to see any of those characteristics from the 2013 edition of the New York Rangers.
Did I expect rust? Absolutely. But what I didn't expect was a lack of "jam" as Torts likes to call it.
I mentioned it on the blog the other day, but you have to wonder if Sather lost too much of this team's guts during the offseason. Dubinsky, Prust and Fedotenko all do the little things that help teams win. And in two games, their replacements have not.
It also seems that the absence of those guys is negatively affecting those still on the team. While Boyle is far from being the toughest guy in the room, I was disappointed with his lack of a response to Orpik hit on Kreider. I can almost guarantee that if Dubinsky was on the ice with Kreider, he would have gone right over to Orpik. I keep hearing how close this year's squad is in the locker room, which is great, but I'm still not convinced they're ready to battle for each other on the ice.
Now does this mean players like Halpern, Asham and Pyatt can't fill those roles? Hell no. But it may take a little time for them to get comfortable in a new system and doing things the "right way."
And while the defense looks like a shell of its former self (just 26 blocks in the first two games), with the exception of Lundqvist, that unit, which returns everyone from last season, is that last thing I'm worried about.
My biggest concern, however, is that the players who put everything on the line physically and mentally last year, might be burned out. I know they had an extended vacation, but it's not easy to bring the intensity needed to play in Torts' system every night. And you have to wonder if these guys are willing to do it again. The blocked shots, the tough forecheck, the suffocating defense. Do they have it in them to literally sacrifice everything again?
I think they do. Last year's success was a direct result of those sacrifices and the players know it.
So chin up Rangers fans, two loses to open up the year, does not a season make. There's more than enough talent and character for this team to make another run at Lord Stanley's Cup.