As all of you loyal Ranger fans know, New York played a two-game series in Prague over this past weekend, both games of which were won by the Rangers 2-1.
With a game on Saturday and Sunday, residents of the Czech Republic were able to see what the "new" post-lockout NHL is about. Although the games were very fun and exciting to watch, there were certain points when fellow Ranger fans and I watching the games were already in midseason form, criticizing certain individuals and the play of the team. Here are some things that stood out to me during the course of both games:
Nigel Dawes looks invisible
While Dawes may be notorious for starting off the season slowly, he is picking the wrong season to do so. With Dubinsky, Zherdev, Gomez, Naslund, and Drury filling the other top-six forward roles, the second-line LW slot is wide open.
I have always defended Nigel, but I feel that he is on the second line with Dubinsky and Zherdev by default based on his performance last season. So far, he has been less than spectacular and not noticeable on the ice. Dawes has to get it going—and quickly.
The Naslund-Gomez-Drury line looks phenomenal
I have not seen a Rangers line move the puck this well since the old combination of Straka, Nylander, and Jagr back in 2005. Gomez's pinpoint pass to Naslund that resulted in the first Rangers goal of the season was absolutely amazing.
Although this line may not be the biggest, I think they will continue to prove the old mantra that "speed kills" in the NHL.
The power play looks a lot better without Jagr
With no more Jagr to quarterback the power play from the right-end boards, other players on the team are now able to be more creative and work the puck faster.
The game-tying goal for the Rangers on Sunday was a prime example of the new Rangers power play. The Rangers were able to cycle the puck around in the offensive zone, keeping it in there for over a minute and a half before Redden finished off a great feed from Naslund in the slot. The power play this season should surely see an improvement from 22nd overall in the league last season.
Kalinin is this year's Malik
But not in the way most of you may think. This guy will be the best bottom-pairing defenseman this team has had since the lockout. He is sound positionally, and makes good decisions with the puck.
He is apt to make a mistake or two, but what defenseman hasn't made a boneheaded move? The way some people are jumping on him and trying to make him the scapegoat of the team TWO GAMES INTO THE SEASON is unbelievable. (Yes, I'm talking to you guys over at HF.)
Wait until this guy legitimately costs the Rangers a couple of wins this season before you guys burn him in effigy over Section 420.
As a general observation, the team went into Prague with 15 forwards and six defenders. Now, only 12 forwards are able to be dressed, meaning three will take a seat each game. This is occurring while Corey Potter and Brian Fahey, both of whom made strong cases to earn the seventh defenseman job at the very least, are down in Hartford while the team carries only six defenders.
This has lead me to believe that a trade is in the works, involving the movement of some of the team's excess third-line players for draft picks, or even an upgrade for someone who can possibly play on the second line. Maybe it's a pipe dream—but Patrick O'Sullivan, anyone?
That's all from me for now. Be sure to watch the home opener against the Blackhawks on Friday at 7pm!