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What Happened?

Well the season seemed a little too good to be true, and all of a sudden we're seeing the team everyone expected the Rangers to be; sloppy, unable to score timely goals (or goals at all really), and generally inexperienced. For lack of a better term, lets call it the curse of 2012.

Seems that when that clock flipped over to January 1st, the team simply put seemed confident. They only lost twice in the month of december, and both times by one goal margins (both times were also the first 2 friday's of the month, ironically). Heading to Guelph on new years day saw a team that struggled for puck control, took stupid penalties, and let the Storm come within one goal of winning the game. Had it not been for Tobias Rieder's quick goal in the final minute, I'm almost certain the Storm would have pulled out the win. They certainly deserved the extra point for on OT loss, had it gone that far. But The Rangers got lucky.

Last Friday, they fall behind 2-0 to the Generals early in the first, and never come back, eventually losing 6-3. Saturday night in Erie, they fall behind 4-2 but thanks to some strong play from Franky Palazzese they come back to win it 6-4. Thursday in Peterborough, they get badly outplayed 95% of the game, but thanks to one miscue from former Ranger Mike Morrison they eke out the win. Come back to tonight against Plymouth, and it's all gone again, falling behind 3-0 in the first period, eventually losing 6-1.

First word that came to my mind tonight: Pathetic. Second? Commitment. When the team is not ready to commit, they play pathetically. It's just that simple.

What's pathetic about the Rangers play? Their power play. Simply put, it was brutal tonight against Plymouth. Kitchener went 0/6 on the man advantage. They set 18th overall in the league with a lousy 14.8%. The one consolation is that they have allowed the fewest shorthanded goals against, at only 2. The penalty kill also needs a lot of beefing up, as the Rangers sit 19th. Again, there is a consolation, as the Rangers have the third most short handed goals for, at 11.

So where do they need to go from here? First, they need to get healthy and stay healthy. It currently looks like Matia Marcantuoni will either have surgery on his shoulder and be gone for the whole season, or do rehab and be back in about a month. That decision will be made on Monday. Regardless of whether it's for the season or a month, it's a huge loss for a guy who was projected to be selected by Carolina in the first round (Maybe Faksa now instead?). What a tough season for #91, certainly he can't be blamed for being injured, it's simply bad luck.

John Gibson needs to get back in between the pipes. Franky Palazzese could use a break. He's made the last 9 starts for Kitchener, going 7-2 in that time. That's pretty good, except those 2 losses he allowed at least 5 goals. My conclusion is, and it's not a knock at Franky's skill at all because he's very talented, he's simply tired and needs a game or two off. Gibson was away at the world juniors and now has a concussion, but hopefully he'll be back next weekend. The Rangers could really use his services.

Secondly, this power play needs a serious overhaul. For the past 2 seasons the Rangers have been trying the same system over and over again. It's not working. The special teams are easily the biggest hole in the Rangers game right now. Had they converted on a couple of those opportunities tonight, maybe it would have been a different game. Something to work on next time.

And finally, Ryan Murphy needs to get back in to it. He absolutely has the potential to be the best player in the western conference, hands down. He proved it over the last 2 seasons, he proved it with Carolina at their camp this summer, he needs to prove it now for this team to get going. If he can find his stride, maybe the rest of the team will start to build off it and the team as a whole will get better.

Here's hoping for a strong effort on Sunday.

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