by Gary Pino
The New York Rangers are finding a chemistry that will allow this club to become a much stronger presence in the Eastern Conference . Bryan Trottier is finding out how difficult it is to coach in the NHL and win on a regular basis . Not to mention how and when to make correct line changes that don’t cost him a fine and a 2 game suspension . But things seem to be on track for this group of players…once Holik comes back and gets his game where it should, the Rangers will be much tougher to play against .
Petr Nedved has been the most improved Ranger in my opinion . With his skating and back checking game back from the dead, the lack of coaching this team has had in the past is what is very noticeable in Nedved’s game . He has learned the basic game of x’s and o’s, and he now shows up where he should be on the ice instead of running around like a child learning how to play hockey . The guy has a tremendous wrist shot and has all the talent to lead this team in points . Eric Lindros does not look comfortable on the ice, and I think it’s the lack of another good winger for Bure and Lindros to get that number 1 line rolling.
Mike Richter has been great between the pipes so far this season, but I said this last year when the Rangers were number 1 in the East in the month of January, and then Richter’s game eroded very quickly . As I write this, it was just officially announced Mike suffered a concussion the other night and has been held out of practice for precautionary reasons because of the cracked skull he suffered last year to end his season . This was one of my biggest issues on re-signing Richter! We all know he can still play well, but for how long? I think Sather really wanted Curtis Joseph? But when Joseph took himself off the market by jumping on the Stanley Cup champion Red Wings roster, Glen Sather was prodded into bringing Mike back to end his career as a Ranger . Was it a mistake? We are going to find out real soon as the names of Irbe and Dafoe are being mentioned in the New York newspapers . Dan Blackburn has been thrust into being the number 1 guy! A 19-year-old number 1 guy! And in my mind it’s this 19 year old that will determine if the Rangers make the playoffs or not . It’s that simple, who knows what the status of Mike Richter will be by then?
Defensively the team has improved! Proof to point the other night watching Vladimir Malakhov step right into a cycle to break it up . They seem to be in better position on both sides of the ice . I do feel they will improve with the proper coaching and really keeping things simple in their own zone? With the Rangers determined to make Dale Purinton a better player, it’s costing them dearly because Purinton is an athletic liability on this team . Sure he is better than last season, but he still takes ridiculous penalties and really has no hockey sense! Watching Purinton skate bring me to this question,, Where and Why is Tomas Kloucek still in Hartford? There has to be somebody in Hartford that the Rangers can bring up to help this club. Also when is Darius Kasparaitis going to start playing the type of game we all know he can play? He has also been non-existent at times and this team needs him to step up and play defense .
Overall, Trottier is doing a good job and there’s no need for making a coaching change if the team continues to sputter around 500 . Remember Trottier is coaching a team that basically had no coaching the last 5 years and getting them back to basic hockey takes time . I can see the Rangers are much better at things they absolutely just could not do the last few seasons . They should start to improve very soon. The big question that has to be answered is how long will Mike Richter be able to play in the pipes for the Rangers? And can Dan Blackburn lead this team at such a tender age? I guess we are going to find out very soon.