New York Rangers Preseason: Fluke, or Sign of Things to Come?

Mike RappaportAnalyst IISeptember 27, 2008

For many Rangers fans, the 2008-09 preseason has been their worst nightmare.

While it is not October yet, the questions surrounding the Rangers' offense have not been answered, a goaltender has yet to play a full game, and one of the Rangers' free-agent acquisitions—Wade Redden—is already starting to hear some boos from the blue seats.

However, even as the Rangers now go to Europe without a captain, and with a 1-5 record in the preseason, it is still way too early for Rangers fans to talk about missing the playoffs. And the fact is, the Rangers are still nowhere near the team that reflects its preseason record.

Saturday's game at the Garden was the first time that the Rangers had the majority of their opening-night roster on the ice. With so many new faces on the ice who are expected to play prominent roles in the Rangers' success, it will take time for that transition to finally be complete.  (For reference, look at last season.)

Despite today's performance, Henrik Lundqvist's game is one area that Rangers fans should be breathing easily about. Over an 82-game season, in which Lundqvist will look to play at least 70, he is the one constant that the Rangers will have—and obviously he is the most important piece in the Rangers' puzzle.

The other areas of the Rangers' game are already under scrutiny, as fans believe they are already going to have a long season in the Garden.

The defense has been somewhat shaky during the preseason, with free-agent signing Wade Redden's uneasy play being a huge cause for concern. If Redden continues to struggle, young defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal will have to step up in both ends of the ice, as well as $5 million-a-year man Michal Rozsival.

On offense, there is only one question—where are the goals going to come from? The Rangers scored two goals in each of their six games.

Again, with only half of the normal lineup playing for five of the six games, the Rangers didn't have many offensive weapons on the ice. However, with the Rangers letting go of the majority of the players who averaged 2.5 goals a game last season, and replacing them with lesser0known players, the sources for offense are going to be in question until they are answered.

For newcomers Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev, there will be pressure to mesh with whoever their center will be, or feel the wrath of the MSG crowd.

However, with all of the problems that the Rangers will have to address in the near future, it's better that they have this record in September, when it will be erased in a week, than during the first month of the regular season. And, as the players begin to find their niche, the team will begin to form their identity. 

As the season progresses, the Rangers will leave this preseason behind, and return to the playoffs for a fourth straight season.    

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