Yesterday's defeat at the hands of the league worst Carolina Hurricanes was a microcosm of the entire season for the New York Rangers. For sixty minutes and change, the Rangers had prime scoring opportunities off the rush and down low but just could not bury the puck in the net. They also found a way to hit four posts, with two of them coming off the stick of their superstar Slovakian. With time winding down, it seemed that they would lose yet another embarrassing game on home ice, but Marian Gaborik saved the day with his league leading 27th goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1 and send it to overtime.
With just under three minutes to go in the extra frame, it seemed that the Rangers had another glorious opportunity to score, when Marc Staal came flying down from the point and into the slot. He did not shoot the puck, though, instead he elected to pass the puck to center Erik Christensen who could not control the pass. A minute later, the Hurricanes would rush down ice and score the game winning the goal, felling the now-8th place Rangers to a 19-17-5 record, with a disgusting 8-10-3 record on Madison Square Garden ice.
After watching the Rangers struggle to score goals for the last two months, one can not help feel frustration. It really is not anger or rage because the Rangers are generating scoring chances. Teams that are struggling to score goals as badly as the Rangers usually cannot say that, but the Rangers are getting those chances and just not putting the puck in the net. It has left John Tortorella dumbfounded along with the rest of the fan base. Below are so more observations:
- Marian Gaborik now has 27 of the Rangers 108 goals on the season. That is an eye-opening 25% of the team's total goals scored. Good for him, but disastrous for the team. At this rate, he should come close to or possibly even break Jaromir Jagr's single season goals record for the franchise at 54, but with the Olympics coming up, the injury prone Gaborik could be worn out by season's end, especially since he is playing more minutes as a Ranger than he ever did in Minnesota.
-Henrik Lundqvist is going to need a full game off very soon. Something is just not right with him even though he has drastically improved his play from a month ago. He just looks injured and like he is playing through it. After making a save in the third period yesterday, he got up very slowly and stood bent over during the next TV timeout. With the Rangers playing 17 games in the month of January, combined with the fact that Lundqvist will be team Sweden's starting goaltender at the Olympics, there is a cause for concern.
-John Tortorella was absolutely correct when he called the team's backup goaltending situation a mess, mainly due to the fact that the Rangers really don't have a backup at this current time. The musical chairs game between Chad Johnson and Matt Zaba is getting ridiculous. The Rangers know that neither of them are ready for a role in the NHL, although Johnson played fairly well in a relief appearance against Philadelphia three games ago. Steve Valiquette is in all likelihood done as a Ranger, so it is time for Glen Sather to get serious and bring in a real backup. Manny Fernandez is still unsigned and Martin Biron will be available from the Islanders upon Rick Dipietro's return. With all these games coming up, and Lundqvist's tendency to let his play slip late in the season, it is imperative that they do something to correct this situation.
-Anyone else get the feeling that Erik Christensen is this year's version of Brad Isbister? That is, a bottom six forward finding himself on the top line of a Rangers' team. He does work hard, I'll give him that, and he has decent speed and a good wrist shot, but he has no place being on the Rangers top line. With Prospal out another two weeks, it looks like the Dubinsky-Christensen-Gaborik like will stay together, but why not try Chris Drury on the top line? Everyone else has tried and failed and it may be what Drury needs to finally get going.
To read the rest of this article, click here.