The New York Rangers and their fans expected big things from Brandon Dubinsky entering the 2011-12 campaign. Last season, Dubinsky led the team in scoring with 24 goals and 55 points, albeit on a very offense-deprived team.
His production, though, led to a four-year, $16.8 million contract this summer, and with it the pressure to perform on a nightly basis, something that the 25-year-old forward has had difficulty doing his NHL career.
Fans were disappointed when Dubinsky started the season on a 15-game goal drought, and followed it up with another drought of 17 games. Two goals at Christmas for the Alaska native was just unacceptable.
Dubinsky, who has played very well in all the other areas of his game this season, stuck to the game plan and just kept working. “It’s just about getting my legs going,” Dubinsky said after the Rangers defeated the Phoenix Coyotes, 3-2, on Dec. 18. “I feel like I’ve been skating well the past couple of games so I can get back to the player I know I can be.”
Since then, Dubinsky has been on a tear, scoring four goals he last eight games. He has been around the puck, making plays happen on a consistent basis. His strong play has made head coach John Tortorella promote Dubinsky to the second line with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, and it has paid off thus far.
“I’m keeping my focus, I’m trying to do all the little things and the things we talked about at the beginning of the year,” Dubinsky told Rangers Rants. “I feel like I’m moving my feet. Obviously, it doesn't hurt to be playing with the guys I’m playing with.”
Dubinsky’s goals are coming as the result of hard-working shifts. His goal against the Florida Panthers prior to the Winter Classic was a great single-effort, as was the goal that got him out of the drought prior to Christmas against the New York Islanders. Pucks that weren’t going in for him in October and November are finding seams and holes and the back of the net.
Fans were ready to throw Dubinsky overboard—and still are—but it is difficult to find a power forward like Dubinsky in this league who could play in all areas of the ice like he can. Would Bobby Ryan add another element to this team’s offense? Yes, he would, but at the expense of hurting a pretty strong penalty-klling core.
Dubinsky is turning back into the player Rangers fans have loved since he came up a few years back. He’s putting pucks in the net, playing sound defensively and is ready to drop the gloves with anyone in the league at the defense of his players. If he is able to play at a consistent level, the Rangers have another element back to their game they’ve missed thus far this season.
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