New York Rangers: Trying To Find an Identity

Rob CristinoCorrespondent INovember 16, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 28: Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on October 28, 2009 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Who are the New York Rangers?

Through 20 games in this young 2009-10 season, the Rangers seem to be barely hanging on in the Atlantic Division with 23 points and are slowly dropping in the Eastern Conference Standings with an 11-8-1 record. In the last 10 games, the Rangers are just 4-5-1 and have dealt with major inconsistencies on both the offensive and defensive sides of the puck.

It’s certainly no time to panic, but it would be nice to know what type of team to expect out on the ice game after game.

As of right now, that remains a mystery.

Aside from the play of superstar Marian Gaborik, veterans Vinny Prospal and Ales Kotalik, along with the play of rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto, the offensive capability of the Rangers is unknown.

The Rangers are simply not getting enough offensive contributions from the rest of the lineup, including captain Chris Drury (before he sustained a concussion on Nov. 7), Christopher Higgins, Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov, Enver Lisin, etc…

The Rangers are coming off a 2-1 shootout victory over the Ottawa Senators this past Saturday night at Scotiabank Place, the first shootout for New York this season, and it was Hartford call-up P.A. Parenteau who had the game-winning shootout goal, not one of the regular starters.

Though Prospal and Kotalik scored in the shootout, Gaborik, Lisin, Anisimov, and Higgins had each failed in their shootout attempts.

Gaborik leads this offensively struggling team with 25 points and remains the Rangers' most dangerous threat on the ice with 13 goals and 12 assists in 18 games played. Prospal is second on the team with 21 points, Kotalik has 17 points, and Del Zotto has been a pleasant surprise collecting 15 points.

As for the rest of the team, it's a roster full of struggles.

Brandon Dubinsky wasn't playing as well as everyone had hoped, but he at least contributed 10 points in 18 games before he broke his right hand on Nov. 7.

Ryan Callahan has played hard every night and was a big part of this past win in Ottawa, but even he has had troubles finding the back of the net. Callahan has just three goals and four assists in 20 games played.

The captain of the team, Drury, had just six points before sustaining a concussion, while veteran Christopher Higgins has only five points, continuing to struggle in his debut season in New York. Sean Avery has also lacked an edge in his game and seems afraid to play his normal agitator style of hockey, which the Rangers desperately need.

Like the offense, the defensive side of the spectrum is also a cause for concern.

With two rookie defensemen on the team and two veteran defensemen who played very poorly last year, the defense of the Rangers was a major question mark at the start of the 2009-10 season.

The Rangers' two best defensemen from last season, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, have yet to play to their full potential this year and have been inconsistent at times. Both defensemen did have monster games against the Senators on the penalty kill, especially in the overtime period where they helped stop a 4-on-3 power play, so hopefully that's a sign of good things to come.

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Wade Redden looks better this season (Plus/Minus rating of three), but he still hesitates with the puck and is far from reliable, while Michal Rozsival’s game has completely deteriorated thus far.

The two rookie defensemen, Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy continue to log heavy minutes and are only getting better with more experience in the league, but they still have much to learn. Gilroy leads the team with a Plus/Minus rating of seven.

Then there is Henrik Lundqvist, who is not without fault, but remains the backbone of this team. King Henrik made 35 saves against the Senators and stopped five Ottawa shooters during the shootout.

Lundqvist will continue to be the most important player on the Rangers and will likely contribute to another playoff appearance for New York, but where they go from there depends not only on how much Lundqvist's shoulders can carry the load, but also how much the rest of the team can contribute as well.

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