by Pete Robinson
Well folks, it’s the home stretch from here. The deadline is gone and passed and the Rangers have 16 games left in which 12 are against an Atlantic division team. What a season eh? The team has finally clicked and not a moment too soon. Keeping Nigel Dawes and Ryan Callahan in the line-up has been a complete success. The 1st line, Avery-Dubinsky- Jagr, has been absolutely amazing. Things are looking up on Broadway.
Let’s look at the new guys. First of all, both scored yesterday afternoon in the Philly route and are now starting to meld with the team. Christian Backman‘s first game with the Blueshirts, against the Carolina Hurricanes, was less than stellar. He took a sum of 6 bad penalties and had a double minor put on poor Marc Staal, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since then, Backman, who is 6’4 200 lbs, has picked up his game a little. Though he is no Girardi, he might do well if we give him the chance or if Tom Renney uses his offensive skills correctly.
Freddy Sjostrom (6’1, 217) was quiet his first time in the line-up, but showed he definitely has some speed. Used on the 4th line, he’ll be a good asset against speedy teams on defense. Yet, yesterday he showed that, wow, the 4th line can actually score too, with a goal against Philly (an assist by Blair Betts, who hasn’t assisted a goal since’..uhh..trivia question?). With his speed and skill with the puck, he may stay on line 4, replacing Ryan Hollweg (anyone else tired of that Rock Band promo?) and with Petr Prucha coming back, looks like Orr will be out as well (most likely a scratch until we face a checking team).
So with 16 games, 9 of which are against our own division, could we win the Atlantic? I believe so. Anything is possible in New York, right? Look at the Giants. As it stands we are 5 points behind the division leader Pittsburgh and 4 points against our arch rivals, the Devils, with a game in hand against Pittsburgh. To prevent that, we can’t lose focus.
Each of these games are pivotal and it seems the Rangers are starting to play playoff hockey already. Soft goals by Lundqvist need to disappear, Jagr needs to continue his point streak, the kids need to continue to play at the superstar level. If they keep the atmosphere they’re at now, they can win the division for the first time in 14 years. Can’t lose the easy ones, and got to earn the tough wins. Let’s do it.