This Week in Rangers Hockey (1/25/09 edition)
Heading into the home stretch, the Rangers are in second place in the Atlantic and fifth in the Eastern Conference (28-16-4, 60 points). They rarely look good when they win and often look horrible when they lose.
Still, they have a 10-point cushion over the ninth-place team in the conference.
They’re settling into a defensive style of hockey, though they’re doing it with three defensively-challenged defensemen (give thanks to Henrik Lundqvist), and are sixth in the league in GAA (2.51) and first in PK (87.6 percent).
If everybody on the team did their job as well as Blair Betts, things would look a whole lot better. On the flip side, they rank 27th in goals per game (2.43) and on the power play (15.2 percent).
What do they have to do to get better or more consistent?
It would help if the power play wasn’t so feeble. How would they look if they ranked, say, 15th instead of 27th? They need to somehow turn that around.
Also, stop giving up shorthanded goals.
Nikolai Zherdev needs to start scoring consistently.
Scott Gomez needs to stop being invisible most games. He’s supposed to be a second-half player, so he needs to turn it on.
The defense needs to stop having Lundqvist bail them out every game.
Do they have a shot at the Stanley Cup with the way the team is presently stocked?
The biggest problem with the team is Glen Sather. He’s handcuffed them with his salary cap buffoonery in the short term (Dan Fritsche, Patrick Rissmiller, etc.) and the long term (Wade Redden, Gomez, etc.).
At least he’s out there as the face of the franchise, letting his fans know what direction the team is going.
Oh wait, when was the last time anybody’s actually seen the guy? Is he in the Witness Protection Program? The Rangers seem to be stuck somewhere between having a number of young players still developing and older overpaid deadbeats. Sather has boxed them in with no place to go.
Are they a playoff team? Without a doubt.
Are they a Stanley Cup contender? With that, there’s a lot of doubt.
The All-Star game is going to be renamed in honor of Wade Redden—there’s no hitting and no defense.
Tuesday vs. Anaheim: Won 4-2
Emilio Estevez brought his Mighty Ducks into the Garden, but his team was foiled by a fourth-line center.
Let’s give some props to Blair Betts. The Rangers had to spend the whole game killing off Aaron Voros‘ penalties (three minors), and Betts was all over the place, blocking shots (one after his stick was broken) and showing off his PK skills for all the chicks in the crowd.
He had Earl Hickey’s karma on his side when he was rewarded with an empty-net (shorthanded) goal.
Betts’ linemate Fredrik Sjostrom also put in a shorty. The other two goals were scored with a man advantage. Four special teams goals. How about that?
Not all was well. They scored on the first and last power plays, but were awful on the ones in between. Just getting the puck through the neutral zone was a struggle.
Gomez finally put in the game-winner with his first PP goal of the season. Yes, first.
The Rangers forechecked and attacked the puck, and played a physical game, with Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky up to their old tricks.
Henrik Lundqvist was solid as a rock.
If you watch a replay of Anaheim’s two goals, you’ll see Michal Rozsival and Dmitri Kalinin putting on a clinic of what not to do when you’re playing defense.
Voros and Dan Fritsche were back in the lineup, as Tom Renney wanted to go with a bigger lineup agaisnt the Ducks.
If the Rangers really want to get bigger and tougher they should give legend Bill “Goldie” Goldthorpe a call. He’s only 55.
Quote of the Day
“When we come back next week, we can’t be satisfied with what we’ve done. We have to strive to be better in every aspect.” —Scott Gomez
Games This Week
Colton Orr: 9
Aaron Voros: 7
Brandon Dubinsky: 4
Ryan Callahan: 3
Paul Mara: 3
Dan Girardi: 2
Marc Staal: 2
Nigel Dawes: 1
Petr Prucha: 1
Wade Redden: 1
Nikolai Zherdev: 1
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