This time, the Rangers got their 5-0 lead and held on to it. That’s what one would expect with veteran forwards Jaromir Jagr, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Brendan Shanahan, and Martin Straka leading the scoring charge along with a stalwart goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist and seasoned blue-liners Paul Mara and Michal Rosival.
However, this is not always the case, and the roster on paper does not always live up to expectations.
Scott Gomez, though not having a spectacular season, may be exempted from this conversation, as he made the All Star team, leads the team in assists and points, and has a respectable +8.
Henrik Lundqvist’s 2.33 GAA looks impressive on the stat sheet, but fans of the Blueshirts know that one night King Henrik will pitch a shout out, and the next night he will give up four goals. Coach Tom Renney has clearly overworked Lundqvist over the first three-quarters of the season and will probably not turn to capable back-up Stephen Valiquette (2.19 GAA) for most of the remaining contests as the Rangers look to make their playoff push.
Chris Drury is perhaps the most frustrating figure to watch this season. Brought in for his all around game and leadership skills, Drury has lit up the lamp 20 times, but what jumps off the stat sheet is his -7. Does anybody else recall defense as a part of his game?
The critics have come down hard on Jaromir Jagr, on pace to set career lows in many categories. Yes, Jaromir is getting on in age, but managed to pull off impressive stats during the prior two seasons. Perhaps the departure of speedster Michael Nylander and injuries to another lightning fast skater, Martin Starka, have resulted in less open ice for Jagr to work his magic.
The defense is another puzzling piece to this Ranger picture. Many credit last season’s late run and playoff success to hard work at the blue line. Rosival has had a nice season and seems to have won back the faith of the home crowds. Paul Mara has been consistently disappointing since his acquisition late last season. Marek Malik and rookie Marc Staal have performed well despite low point totals. Youngsters Dan Girardi and Fedor Tyutin seem to be the guys that could make the most difference. Girardi is second to Rosival for points by Ranger defensemen this season, but is sporting a -4. Tyutin only has four goals in 109 shot attempts and is sporting a -1. These two guys need to return to what the Ranger faithful saw out of them at the end of the 2006-2007 campaign for the Rangers to be successful.
There are many others that deserve attention. Petr Prucha and Ryan Callahan have also not lived up to expectations, while young Brandon Dubsinky is sixth on the team in points. Marcel Hossa only has one goal and seven assists, but is sporting a +8, tied for the team lead with Gomez. Enforcer Colton Orr has managed to earn himself a -14.
Perhaps this will all be for naught as the Eastern Conference will simply be serving whichever team it considers to be its choice entrée to Detroit for feasting during the Stanley Cup finals.