Ryan Callahan

Are The Rangers For Real?

As of November 29th, the Rangers have the best win percentage of any team in the league – .690 – are seventh overall with 29 points, just three behind the league leading Penguins, and have games in hand on all six teams ahead of them.  The have two fewer regulation losses than any other team – 5 – and their 13 wins is just one off the best in the league, again with games in hand on all the teams ahead of them.

Their 8-2-0 record in their last ten – and 10 wins in their last 12 games – trail just Boston – 9-0-1 – in terms of current performance.  It’s fair to say the Rangers are amongst the teams to beat in the first quarter of the season.

But the question remains, are the Rangers simply hot, or are they a legitimate team that can compete for the Cup.  Some like Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma think they’re one of the contenders already, but Rangers fans for the most part are a more conservative bunch.

After all, we’re just 21 games into a long 82 game season, and we’ve seen the team in this position before – think 2008-09 when they also started in Europe – only to see them falter in the middle stretch and end up competing for one of the last spots for the playoffs.

They’re also relatively unseasoned as a playoff team, with just two series wins since 1997 the Rangers still need to find a way to prove they can score goals in the post season, and Brad Richards will likely have to be a key contributor.

And then there’s a question of staying healthy.  The team has already suffered several early season injuries to the likes of Mike SauerMarc StaalWojtek Wolski and Mike Rupp.  Hockey being a contact sport, there’s always a good chance that other key Rangers will miss significant time and the team will need to find ways to combat that.

On the positive side, the Rangers appear to be a little deeper this year than they were last.  Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi have stepped up defensively for the Rangers, Michael Del Zotto has found a way to reduce the errors and the Rangers have picked up some cheap depth in Jeff Woywitka and Anton Stralman to help cover for more injuries.  If and when Marc Staal returns, the Rangers will be even better placed on the blue line.

Offensively, the Rangers still have some work to do, but the trio of Marian GaborikBrad Richards and Ryan Callahan have all stepped up to put goals in the net.  The team could use some additional scoring depth, with the performances of Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov from a goal scoring perspective below expectations to date.

The emergence of the Brian BoyleJohn MitchellCarl Hagelin line with three important goals in the last three games has been a welcome addition, as has a couple of goals from Sean Avery and 10 goals from the defense.

Four power play goals in the last three games also provide hope that the Rangers are finally solving their issues with the man advantage, and they’ve managed to move up from 29th in the league to 21st as a result.

In net, it’s hard to fault the contribution of either goaltender.  Henrik Lundqvist has been at the top of his game for the most part, and except for a so-so outing against the Canadiens – where the whole team looked lost – Martin Biron has been stellar too.

The bottom line is that the Rangers have been finding ways to win rather than lose.  Earlier in the season when they fell to the Islanders and Maple Leafs, and then gave up a three goal lead to the Senators in the third period, the Rangers were guilty of playing without confidence.  Since then, they’ve found a variety of different ways to win, something that good teams do.

Even in Florida where they struggled to get anything going offensively, the Rangers were within a single shot of tying the game despite being badly outplayed.

Perhaps the familiarity with each other – 20 of the 29 players used so far this season played for the club last year, and a 30th (John Mitchell) played with the Whale in the latter half of the season – is a large reason for the success.

Or maybe John Tortorella’s trust in the team…and conversely the trust the players have in Tortorella.

Whatever the reason, the Rangers have given us a reason to keep watching, and perhap start to hope for something more than we could at the beginning of the year.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x