Pierre Lebrun, Canadian Press
Published: Thursday, October 19, 2006
(CP) - The New York Rangers head to Toronto for a Saturday night game against the Maple Leafs not particularly thrilled with their 3-4-0 record.
It's a slow start for a club facing sky-high expectations in the Big Apple, with fans and media buoyed by last year's turnaround season under head coach Tom Renney, the club's first foray in the playoffs after seven seasons out. This season was seen as the next step. Losing three of four games at Madison Square Garden then wasn't exactly in the cards.
"I'm not (pleased), but I'm trying to keep it realistic, too," Renney said Thursday from New York. "Because to rebuild and become a Stanley Cup contender doesn't happen in one year. So we're trying to keep perspective on this as well."
A productive off-season saw the Rangers add the likes of veteran winger Brendan Shanahan, centre Matt Cullen, winger Adam Hall, and defencemen Aaron Ward and Karel Rachunek without losing any key players.
"Due to the integration of some key people to our lineup and trying to continue to re-define ourselves, you're going to suffer growing pains and every team goes through what we're going through and hopefully that's it for us this year," Renney said. "We certainly want to get it back on track as quickly as possible."
There are no problems on the offensive side. The Rangers are averaging 3.43 goals a game, which ranked fourth in the NHL before Thursday's games. The problem is they're also averaging 4.00 goals against, 27th in the league.
"Where I think we've had some problems is just paying attention to our jobs away from the puck defensively," Renney said. "We seem to have a little bit more offence this year and with that there's a mentality perhaps of having to go, go, go, whereas it's not a case of that, it's a case of what you leave not what you take.
"So we have to come back to that and recognize that we'll develop as much offence as we need provided we play a bit better defensively. I think that has been our dilemma so far."
Up next for the Rangers comes a chance to shine on Hockey Night In Canada (7 p.m. ET) against a Leafs team that stumbled Wednesday at home to Colorado after a strong start to the season.
"I like Toronto, I like the way they recovered very nicely from their opening game against Ottawa," Renney said. "They made a huge statement for themselves that whenever they step on the banana peel going forward, which they did last night, that they can recover quickly from that. We have to be very cognizant of that and recognize that if we don't come back with an A-plus game that we're in for a long night in Toronto.
"So we want to make sure if anyone has a long night it's the Maple Leafs."
A big difference from last season in that the Rangers weren't expected to do much of anything last October, but took the league by storm. They won't sneak up on anybody this year.