by Matt Pennino
Players To Watch
Listed below are the players, in my opinion that should be watched closely this season. Some have a lot of pressure on them to produce, while others just need to be solid. This is only my opinion. I may have left some other important players off the list. It doesn’t mean there’s no pressure on them necessarily.
After he was traded to the Rangers on the trade deadline last spring, Carter looked lost on the ice during most games. I only saw flashes of the player I saw on the Edmonton Oilers. I don’t buy the excuse that he has to get used to a new conference only because he played several seasons for the Boston Bruins. It might take some time to readjust but I don’t see that as an excuse to not produce. I expect 20-25 goals this season. Anything less will be a disappointment.
Greg de Vries
So far, I haven’t talked to a Rangers fan who has hated this acquisition, and rightfully so. de Vries should add a presence to the blue line and being paired with Poti will help both of them play their respective games. The Leetch/Poti pairing of last season was scary to watch. However, try not to expect too much from the guy as far as offensive production is concerned. It seems that a lot of Rangers fans expect a defenseman to score, score, score but all successful teams have a couple of “stay at home” variety defenseman. If you’re expecting him to put up even 30-40 points this year, then you’ll be disappointed.
Dunham’s play with the Rangers was exceptional. There’s nothing else more to say what hasn’t been said already. The ultimate test will too see if he can handle a heavy workload. Chances are he will get anywhere from 60-65 starts in. My only worry is the groin pulls. This has been a problem for Mike since his days in Nashville and I’d hate to see him miss some starts down the stretch because of this nagging injury.
I must admit that this is the first time in years than I’ve been happy with both the starting and backup goaltenders of the Rangers. Glen Sather did a great job getting this guy for practically nothing on the eve of free agency. I think this was Sather’s best acquisition this summer. He will definitely bring some stability to the goaltending while Blackburn gets the playing time he needs. Unfortunately for him, the damage to the nerves in his shoulder will keep him on the shelf for quite some time.
After the trade…err…salary dump by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kovalev returned to form once putting on the Rangers jersey again. When I say return to form, I mean the same Alexei that wore the Rangers jersey from 1992-1998, and that’s not a good thing. We often saw the frustration that caused Neil Smith to trade him away for Petr Nedved. Despite his blunders and for the most part, his ineffectiveness following the salary dump, Kovalev is still one of the most skilled players in the game. He can change the course of a game with one play, a game-breaker if you will. Barring injury, look for him to lead the Rangers in both goals and points this season.
Now we’ve come to everyone’s favorite Ranger. (heavy on the sarcasm) Last season was Lindros’ worst season of his career, bar none. For the first time in his career, he was not a point-per-game player during the season scoring only 19 goals all year, only one more than Mark Messier. While Lindros has looked good in the preseason, it is only preseason. I want to see him mess with guys that aren’t the likes of Tyler Wright. If he plays the way he has so far, and puts up the points, he will be back on the good side of the Ranger faithful.