With 2009 under way, the Rangers will look to find their old form as they start the new year in Washington against the Capitals tonight. They left 2008 with a home win against the Islanders, in a game that they did not play their best.
After a pretty good California road trip, the Rangers came home and blew a 4-0 lead to the Capitals (whom they play tonight) and followed that up by getting out played at home against the rival Devils. The 5-4 victory over the Islanders to end 2008 brought the Rangers up to 49 points, enough to keep them tied for first in the division with Philadelphia, who have two less wins, but one game in hand.
Officially listed as second in the division, and now fourth in the conference, the Rangers have some work to do in 2009, and certain players are key for the Rangers in 2009
The captain has received lots of scrutiny for being over payed in his time here. But Chris Drury must fight through it and be the captain he is meant to be. With 11 points in 12 games, and four multi-point games in December, maybe he is headed in the right direction.
The king ended 2008 on a sour note, giving up 13 goals in his final three games. While he can't be blamed for everything, it is clear, Henrik Lundqvist needs to find the form he brought to the team early this season if this team has hopes of being a serious cup contender.
Last year's shutout leader has yet to record one this year. His GAA in December was a lowly 3.77, and while the teams defensive struggles haven't helped, Lundqvist hasn't been able to steal games as he had earlier in the year. For the Rangers to take back respect, the king needs to take back his throne.
Both of his goals this season have come when he gets put back in the lineup. Prucha reminds us why he needs to play, but he needs to do it more. He is a goal scorer, but he isn't scoring enough in games he is given a chance in. With our offense struggling as it is, a good goal scorer like Prucha needs to be more consistent.
Rozsival ended a dismal 2008 on a high note with 4 points in his last four games, without registering a minus rating in 5 games. Previously to those 5 games, he had gone 7 games without a plus rating, going a -9 in those 7 games. Michal has overall been terrible this year, but has shown some good games.
The Rangers will need his offensive touch, and the kind of defensive reliability he had shown in 2006-2007. Thoughts of those days where he wasn't a liability seem like distant memories though. But in order for the Rangers to contend, Rozsival needs a rebirth
The Power Play
A reasonable strategy against the Rangers, if you are up by one goal late, you should take a penalty. Not only will they not score, but you are likely to score a shorthanded goal. 11 shorthanded goals given up on the year is just a disgrace.
Most teams don't give up 11 in a season, yet we have found a way to get there before half of the season is done. I am frankly surprised that they are not the worst in the league, operating at a lowly 14.2 percent. This could prove to be the one thing that keeps the Rangers from being a legitimate cup contender.
Dubie had all the fans going nuts after his hot start. But the sophomore slump has hit him, big time. With just one goal in 29 games, Dubinsky's offense has struggled just as the team's has. He has chipped in with a few assists, but it is not enough.
He has gone up to six games in a row without registering a point, and that can't happen from a guy who was expected to take the first line center spot. Dubie still has the support of the fans, he just needs to find the net more to be seen as a legitimate threat in this league.
For a guy that was always known as being a responsible 2-way player, a -11 rating is not going to cut it for a guy who learned to play defensively in the most well executed defensive systems in recent memory. Scott Gomez is capable of being an offensive leader on this team, and it its about time he shows it.
Call it boring, say what you will, but it is damn effective. The Rangers went 10-2-1 in the month of October giving up about 2.4 goals per game. They went 6-5-1 in December giving up an average of 3.5 per game. Obviously a huge drop off.
Let's face it people, maybe you feel it isn't as fun to watch, but this team is at it's best when they can play 2-1. 3-2 games. The simple fact is that this team can't consistently win the back and forth, goal for goal games.
It is easy to blame defensive struggles on guys like Redden and Rozsival and Kalinin, but it is the responsibility of all five skaters to play defense.
The Rangers face a big second half to this season. In a year that at first had many fans dreaming of a Stanley Cup, we are now not sure of a playoff spot. But with a few key players stepping up, 2009 could become a dream year for Rangers fans.