First nine: 2-5-1. Last nine: 7-2-0.
That tells the story of the turnaround the Rangers have made in this young season. That proves that the early hiccups that this team experienced were nothing more than growing pains. That when the right line combinations are found and the players learn to play with each other, it will create success. That when the team defense is consistanly excellent, and even when it is not, there is a world class goaltender to clean up after the mistakes, this team will win games. A lot of games.
There are many notable issues to discuss about the recent success of the Rangers and I will point out a few that stood out in my mind.
The Gomez-Avery-Shanahan (the GAS line, spread the word) has had the most offensive success of any line this season. Obviously, Gomez is coming into his game and is figuring out how to play in a new system. His speed brings a whole new dimension to the game. When I see him touch the puck, I find myself sitting on the edge of my seat, even if he only has it in the defensive end. He has made beautiful passes and is even scoring goals (4) much to the surprise of the Devils fans. Avery is still being Avery by adding a distraction as well as an underrated scoring threat. He is prone to pick up Gordie Howe Hat Tricks. And Shanahan can play his game, glide around to some open ice and expect a perfect feed from one of his linemates. It also helps that the Jagr line draws the top defensmen, even though two of the forwards, Dubinsky and Hossa, are far from elite. All this has translated into great offensive production from this line.
The fourth line of Orr-Betts-Hollweg who I so willingly and rightfully ripped this summer, calling them "useless" among other things, has really become a shutdown defensive line. They still dont score, mind you, but they have been matched up against the top opposing line for the past few games. I do not remember a goal scored while that line was on the ice yet they have faced quality lines. The team defense system preached by Tom Renney is really represented in this group which, a year ago consisted of a fighter, a hitter and a PK/ shot blocking specialist. Now they play their roles to perfection and allow the offensive lines to have more favorable matchups.
What can you say about Henrik Lundqvist. The guy kept the Rangers in it early and boosted them ahead as of late. In his third year, he is playing even better than he did in his two Vezina finalist season. He is really playing awesome hockey and deserves all of the praise that hes been receiving. It seems impossible to score against him and goals against are rarely his fault. The Rangers really have a gem and better sign him before he gets too expensive because he is a guy who should be a career Ranger. As for this season, if he can keep up the pace, he should clinch another Vezina final and perhaps even win the award. If you want one goaltender in net in the postseason, it is no doubt Henrik Lundqvist.
The next game is Wednesday at the Prudential Center when the Rangers face-off against the struggling Devils in game 2 of a crucial 4 game road trip.