We are 9 games into the season, and the Rangers are doing the opposite of what we thought.
Those that dislike the organization would say the worst things about our defense, stating that we might score many goals, but due to our "weak" blueline, the games would end up being 6-5, 5-4, etc...
Well... the opposite has occurred. As of today, the Rangers have the lowest goals scored per game (1.667), but also the the lowest goals against (1.778). The second best goals against is Minnesota, and the second worst goal scorers are Atlanta.
Our defense starts with Lundqvist, who has been absolutely brilliant this season. He has only let up more than 2 goals in one game (5-3L to Atlanta), has two shutouts (one of which was a shootout loss). He completely robbed Savard in that game, and it still gives me chills. The King is already in mid season form, and if he keeps this up, the GAA will continue to be amazing.
Malik - Roszival
This is our top pairing (or is it?). Malik was largely criticized for the first 3 or 4 games of the season, having been responsible for about 5 goals scored on us, 2 of which were gamewinners. Roszival has also had a rough start, which is odd considering it is a contract year for him. Both of these players have made some "bonehead" plays, but for the last couple of games, they have been fairly consistent.
Tyutin - Girardi
This is our new top pair, at least for the last 3 games. Tyutin is playing his third season on the blueline, and Girardi his second season (played only 34 games last season, and was never drafted). Girardi is also yet to take a penalty, but he has made some fantastic shutdown plays in front of my Swedish Meatball. Tyutin seems to have gained some mass, but without the sacrifice of speed, and he is already playing as good as he was near the end of last season. The pair is also strong in terms of shot-blocking.
Mara - Staal
Mara is unnecessarily criticized, in my opinion. He throws his body around, making the sacrifice on 2-on-1's especially. He is not as fast as some of our young blue-liners, but he is a good defenseman.. not great, not awful, but good. He will most likely be moved, though, because of his salary (3m, the highest paid d-man on the Rangers). Staal is showing signs of development as well. He looked shaky his first game, but he is playing with a lot more confidence than the coaching staff has expected. He has been beaten a few times, especially along the boards at the blue-line, but he has not made any glaring mistakes.
My conclusions on our current defense
Malik and Roszival have to step up to their expectations. If not for their early-season errors, we might have only one or two losses, but it is ok.
Tyutin and Girardi are absolutely stellar. I hope this pair is never broken up.
Mara and Staal are a good match because Staal needs some veteran guidance. Strudwick (our 7th d-man / extra forward) has also been helpful in Marc's development.
Bottom line: Our defense is getting it done! We are back-checking very well, and we are responsible in our own zone. Lundqvist must appreciate the effort.
Yes, it has been frustrating...the injuries to Straka and Avery are not helping, but that is part of the game.
Lots of people are bashing us for our recent signings, often noting that Gomez and Drury are not worth it, but I will not waste the time to address that issue with those idiots.
Straka and Jagr played with Nylander last season. Straka had about as many helpers as Nylander. Yes, Nylander is a slower, more patient set-up man needed for Jagr, but Gomez knows this. He is playing for a new system, and it will take time.
The bottom line is that Straka must play with Jagr. Gomez is playing better every game, and once Straka is back, I am sure those three will be a force to be reckoned with, and we will all be saying, Nylan-who?
Dawes stepped it up last night with two goals, capitalizing on a Devils' line-change mistake on the first goal, and then a beautiful powerplay setup for the second (Dubinsky also earned his first NHL point with a powerful play behind Marty).
Despite the low scoring Rangers, let's look at the points.
Gomez - 2g/1a/3p
Drury - 1g/5a/6p
Jagr - 1g/7a/8p
It's not that impressive, but it's not that bad either, considering our Goals Against Average.
Hang in there, Ranger fans, the best is yet to come!