Great win this afternoon at the TD Banknorth Garden by the Rangers. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a dominating performance but it was solid. Boston controlled the play for stretches but all-in-all the Rangers did a good job of making sure a Bruins team missing key players came up on the short end of the stick.
Lundqvist was great today. He made some great saves following some defensive miscues and giveaways. Included among those saves were successive hard point shots from Johnny Boychuk and Zdeno Chara to keep the Rangers in the lead, 2 – 0. He also stoned Marco Sturm on a penalty shot in the 1st period. It seemed as if Sturm couldn’t decide whether to shoot five-hole or attack the gap between Lundqvist’s right pad and blocker. Ultimately, the King made the save with the right pad.
Brandon Dubinsky had a strong game with a hand in all 3 goals (1 goal, 2 assists). Maybe the shift to LW has enabled him to play a simpler game. With Gaborik on the right side and waiver-wire acquisition Erik Christensen playing well centering the line, Dubinsky has plenty of chances offensively. He also seems to be in a better position to aggressively forecheck and create turnovers in the offensive zone.
The Rangers ran their record up to 18 – 10 – 4 with Dubinsky in the lineup this season, versus a 4 -7 – 2 mark while he was out with the broken arm. Dubinsky’s presence is generating comparisons to the impact Sean Avery had on the team’s won/loss record in seasons past.
Many fans were looking to Dubinsky for that breakout offensive year after he finished with 40 and 41 points respectively in his first two campaigns. I’m not sure it would qualify as a “breakout” but at his current pace, Dubinsky would finish with a line of 17 – 33 – 50 in 69 games; assuming he doesn’t miss any more games this season. That would prorate to something like 20 – 39 – 59 in a full schedule.
Another offensive star of late has been Christensen. He was scoreless in his first 8 appearances with the Rangers while averaging just 9:44 of ice time on the 4th line. Since being promoted to the 1st line Christenson has responded with 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 6 contests while receiving nearly 18 minutes of ice time per game.
When interviewed after being claimed by the Blueshirts via waivers, Christensen seemed to realize that this was likely going to be his last shot to prove himself as a quality NHL regular. He has always had skill offensively but questions about his work ethic and his confidence swirled. I would hazard to guess his confidence is at its highest point right now knowing he is skating with Gaborik and Dubinsky every game.
Next up for the Rangers is a home game against the Atlantic Division leading New Jersey Devils. That brings me to my next point; the Rangers pitiful home record. To date, the Blueshirts are just 10 – 10 – 3 at home; a winning percentage of .435. Last season, the Rangers were 26 – 11 – 4, for a winning percentage of .634. Considering the Rangers only placed 7th in the East with that home record, things could get tough for the Blueshirts if they don’t improve their play on home-ice.
The saving grace has been their very good 12 – 7 – 3 record on the road. They are currently tied for the third most road wins in the Eastern Conference. Last season, they finished under .500 on the road with a 17 – 19 – 5 mark. If the Rangers can continue their solid play on the road and start taking advantage of home-ice, the Blueshirts should cruise into the playoffs.
The Trade Deadline looms and we all know what that likely will mean. Glen Sather has traditionally added help at the deadline for the playoff push and it’s been in those situations that he has done some of his best work. Two seasons ago he added Fredrik Sjostrom and Christian Backman, neither of whom big-name players, but both were solid and helped the Rangers qualify for the playoffs. Last year he may have done his best work by acquiring Nik Antropov for a 2nd round pick, Derek Morris for 3 players that had no future in New York and re-acquiring super-pest Sean Avery via re-entry waivers from Dallas.
So my question to my fellow Rangers fans is what would you WANT Sather to do this year. Clearly, for us to have any hope of a long playoff run, we will need to improve offensively. Whether that means acquiring someone from the outside or not is a question.
Maybe we should look to move a big contract; Rozsival would be the most likely target as he makes less than Drury or Redden, doesn’t have a NMC that I’m aware of and has played reasonably well enough that he might draw interest. If we moved a Rozsival though we would create a hole on defense, so you’ll have to keep that in mind as well. The obvious advantage is the opening of $5 million in cap space that can be utilized to re-sign Dan Girardi and Marc Staal and/or using some to add more help in the off-season.
Personally, I would take a look at a Ray Whitney of Carolina since he has playoff experience (he has a ring to prove it) and can help out offensively. Kovalchuk won’t work as the price tag is way too high. Maybe a Paul Kariya and/or Keith Tkachuk makes sense; but only if the price is reasonable. None of the players mentioned here is likely to make the Rangers Stanley Cup contenders so it’s important not to mortgage the future for any quick fixes.