There's no better place to direct the focus on Thursday night's 3-0 Rangers loss to the Penguins than on the team's fourth too many men on the ice penalty of the season.
It came at the end of the second period after a puck kicked off Derek Stepan's skate to set up a Sidney Crosby breakway that amounted to nothing. The penalty gave the Penguins a power play and they cashed in with a James Neal goal 28 seconds into the third that made the game 2-0 and essentially ended the evening's competition.
The remaining 19:32 would look a lot like the first 40 minutes. A lifeless crowd watching a lifeless Rangers team go through the motions against a Penguins team whose won despite having an energy level only slightly higher than the home team.
Evgeni Malkin scored a tough goal early and the Penguins pretty much cruised from there as the Rangers had no fight at all without Ryan Callahan in the lineup. John Tortorella called his team slow after the game, a very reasonable explanation of a very unreasonable effort from his team.
The lack of fight is an issue that has come up time after time during the 3-4 start to the season, shaking up the identity of a team that we knew so well last season. The spate of too many men on the ice penalties represents the sloppiness that has been another defining storyline thus far and the combination is one that makes you wonder if the Rangers are headed for irrelevance this season.
After sitting through Thursday night, people are free to draw any conclusions they like but they should keep a little perspective in mind when they do come up with them. The perspective we offer is that last year's Rangers team started the year by losing six of their first nine games before reeling off seven straight wins that launched them on their way to a division title.
Now, the long-memoried among you will point out that the Rangers earned a point by getting to overtime in three of those games and use that to point out how this year's team doesn't fight hard enough to get that done. A fair point, although losing is losing even if it comes via a skills contest at the end of a game and no one was praising the Rangers' jam when they were losing those games way back in 2011.
These things can take a little bit of time to come together with or without a lockout and it's not like there haven't been signs of the better team underneath. Rick Nash and the other top forwards have done well, the defense is still deep and talented and Henrik Lundqvist remains one of the best goalies in the league.
If things look the same seven games from now, it will be time to wonder if this team has the fortitude to do anything worth celebrating this season. For now, though, better to keep the faith and hope that history is about to repeat itself.
Even after a game as ugly as Thursday's.