Monday, October 25, 2010

Rangers Week In Review 10/18-10/24 : An Ominous Start, But a Promising End

Each week depending on how the schedule looks in terms of Sunday and Monday games I will take a look at the week in review as well as the week ahead.  I am going to look at them as two separate topics because while how the team played the previous week may inform how they will play the upcoming slate of games it does not tell much about the opponents we will be facing.

Record starting week 1-1-1
Record ending week 4-2-1

This past week the Blueshirts went 3-1 and turned what seemed to be a down and somber fan base based on the start of the season and the just collected injury news on Gaborik, Drury and Prospal at its start and ended the week with hope of very good things. 

The first game of the week on Monday against the Avs was not very pretty and didn’t do much for morale as they lost 3-1 in a pretty poor effort in front of the home fans.  The level of trepidation was boiling following this loss and a 1-2-1 start to the point where it actually became a joke in some ways to tell all Ranger fans to stop panicking, step back from the ledge, that it had only been approximately 5% of the season.  The best offensive line in this game was Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan as they were able to possess the puck, draw penalties, create chances, but the problem was they had no finish.  Chris Stewart showed more battle and strength than Staal and Rozsival on his goals and it seemed like the Rangers were destined to suffer more Jekyll and Hyde play like last year.  I would spend the following few days writing about how this team, especially without some offensive leaders would need to play more fundamental hockey.

The next game came on Thursday and the Rangers made some changes in the lineup, re-inserting Michael Sauer on the 3rd D pair, moving Eric Christensen back up to play with Frolov and Prust, while moving Brian Boyle back to the 4th line with Todd White and Derek Boogaard.  Surprisingly to some with a back to back situation coming on the weekend the Rangers went with Martin Biron in the net.  The talk before the game was not even really on the game but whether the Rangers would retaliate for Colby Armstrong’s hit on Marian Gaborik that knocked him out of the lineup or if the Leafs would come after Sean Avery for his lumberjacking of Mike Komisarek.  When the game finally was played, the Rangers put together a tremendous effort which spoke to a sense of desperation in their play.  Again the best forward line on the ice was Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan and on defense everyone had a stellar performance, though I singled out Michael Del Zotto in my review because of how well he played in his own zone.  Martin Biron was spectacular for the Rangers in the win.

On Saturday, the Rangers took on the Boston Bruins in Boston.  Before the game I discussed whether the Rangers could put together back to back efforts like the one in Toronto and if they might finally find some consistency in their play.  The Rangers had another very good effort with Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan once again being their top forward line and other than a few lazy penalties having played a very good game on both ends.  Michael Del Zotto was the only defender to really have any gaffes in his own zone, but none of them cost the Rangers on this evening.  Also prior to the game I wondered if Martin Biron should get his second consecutive start both because of his play, but also because of both the back to back and wanting to make sure the rest of the team didn’t revert back to strictly relying on Henrik to bail them out.  Lundqvist got the start and by the time the night was over he would have 35 saves, getting stronger as the game went on, in the 3-2 win.

On Sunday, the Rangers would look to close out the week with a third straight victory and maybe just as importantly a third straight consistent performance.  They were taking on a wounded animal in the New Jersey Devils, but they took them seriously from the initial drop of the puck at least through 2 periods.  Again, as a broken record, the best forward line was Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan while all of the top 4 D played very well.  The Rangers could not convert on their chances in the first but would get two in the second and later add an empty netter in the 3-1 win.  The only cause for caution in the last nine periods of the week was the 3rd period against New Jersey where they seemed to take their foot off the accelerator to an extent.  Lundqvist was able to protect them from the let down in play costing them points, making 27 saves in the win.

What we saw this week was a much more team oriented game in which they stopped waiting for superstars to save them and went back to basic hockey of playing as 5 man units and outworking your opponent.  What we also saw was the development of some homegrown players into a line capable of taking on some other very good top lines in the league on a nightly basis.  Maybe the most important fact that we should hope carries over when Gaborik, Prospal, Drury come back is that this team if they play hard and together has enough talent without relying on those guys to win games.

Player of the week this week is very tough as so many guys had tremendous weeks including: Artem Anisimov, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, Michal Rozsival, Dan Girardi, but I am going to go with Brandon Dubinsky as he made his presence felt the most of any Ranger this week in all four games.  Others might have played better in this one or that one but he was the most consistently good Ranger of the week.

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