Henrik Lundqvist 2

February – The All Telling Month

by Dan DiOrio

This time last year the Rangers began a seven game win streak which saw them not drop a game the whole month of February. It was really the last high point before melting down the last 9 games which cost them a division title and of course the brief and I mean brief stint in the playoffs. A year later they find themselves coming into February a desperate hockey club needing to play its best hockey down the stretch hoping to repeat the same February successes they had last year.

Biggest Games of the Month
February 3rd & 9th vs. Tampa Bay – It can not get much bigger than this. The Lightning hold a four point lead, but our Rangers have two games in hand. These two games represent an 8 point swing either way in a span of just seven days which could sway the tide for which team gets to hold one of the final playoff spots.

February 15th vs. Carolina – The Hurricanes also hold a four point lead, but the Rangers have three games in hand on the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Hurricanes are coming into February as cold as ice, losing four of their last 5. This could be a golden time for the Rangers to pass them in the standings.

Key Players
Henrik Lundqvist – After his sensational rookie campaign most of us expected a repeat performance if not even better from King Henrik this year. However the first three months of the season Henrik’s goals against average was much closer to 3 then 2. Things changed in January. Since the big ball dropped in Times Square Lundqvist has played like his old self posting a 2.01 GAA in that time. Henrik has not given up more than 2 goals in a game since January 9th, although with the power outage the Rangers offense has been in he has only posted a 3-4 record in that time. If the Rangers are going to have the February they need to keep themselves in the playoff race Lundqvist will have to keep playing like he did in January, instead of the Lundqvist of the first three months of the season.

Rookie Defensemen – With the injury to Marek Malik the Rangers blue line will now have two rookies on it for most of February. Daniel Girardi has played well in his first three games of NHL action but you have to expect the youngster to go through some growing pains. For the other Rookie Thomas Pock has been in and out of the lineup all year long, but now should be expected in the lineup every night until Malik returns. Pock has shown signs of brilliance on the offensive side of the ice, he is not afraid to shoot and passes the puck pretty well. However the young Austrian has a tendency to be too aggressive in the offensive zone which has lead to plays such as the game winning goal by Mats Sundin to close out January.

If the Rangers are going to get good play from their blue line they’re going to need these two youngsters to step up into an important role. If the Rangers can stay on pace through the month of February, expect Sather to make a move before the February 27th deadline. If this team is expecting to make a serious run in the playoffs they need a 2nd line center that can move the puck. Shanahan is literally just wasting away with the likes of Betts and Hossa. If the Rangers land a good puck moving center, it would shock me if Ryan Callahan was not called up and given the chance to play on a line with Shanahan and…(insert whichever center the Rangers are supposedly interested in now)..which would really give us three lines with some talent and ability, which in my mind would make us a Cup contender.

Whether you are a pessimist and think the Rangers will fall flat on their face this month and fall right out of playoff contention, or like me, an Optimist who thinks our team will prove the doubters wrong and keep themselves in the race. This month will determine which direction this team goes in for the rest of the season.

February Schedule
3rdat Tampa Bay Lightning
5thDetroit Red Wings
6that New Jersey Devils
9thTampa Bay Lightning
10that Washington Capitals
15that Carolina Hurricanes
17thPhiladelphia Flyers
18thChicago Blackhawks
20that New Jersey Devils
22ndNew Jersey Devils
24thColumbus Blue Jackets
27thMontreal Canadiens
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