Saturday, November 13, 2010

New York Rangers Are Slowly But Surely Becoming A Team

The last couple years one of the things that has frustrated me the most with the Rangers as much as the results has been the lacking sense of team from the guys who wear the sweater.  I don’t want this to be one of those does winning create chemistry or does chemistry create winning type pieces and frankly I don’t even care if the guys in the locker room like each other, but there must be a sense of respect for one another.  This team the past few years has had the feel of a bunch of individuals with no common purpose and it has shown itself in individuals trying to get their numbers, sulking when they fail even when the team wins and not really having anger at losing.  Also beyond that there has been a complete and utter lack of sticking up for one another.

This season, while far from perfect some of those things have either changed or are on the way to changing.  The Rangers have still had plenty of examples where either nothing was done or it took a while for someone to stand up for a teammate who was run by an opponent.  That said there are also more examples in 16 games this year than the past few years combined whether it be Sean Avery when Rulsan Fedotenko got laid out, Brian Boyle protecting Michael Del Zotto vs Washington, Michael Sauer standing up for Steve Eminger in the Washington game as well and Dubi attempting to get retribution before the refs intervened when Stepan was taken down vs St. Louis.  The one guy the team still does not seem to stand up for nearly enough is Henrik Lundqvist who literally is your franchise but he still gets run consistently and no one has truly taken out an opponent for doing it.  In the cases where they have stood up it is not about the penalties they take in doing it or if they like the guy they are standing up for but simply sending a message to the opponent that night and around the league that we will protect our own.

In addition to that sense of team in defending the other guys wearing the same sweater the Rangers this season have shown a greater ability to overcome adversity by coming together and stepping up in times of injury.  The Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan line was forced into a role collectively they probably were not ready for because of the injuries to Prospal, Drury and Gaborik, but in working together as a unit which is really what a successful fore-check/cycle system needs they were able to not only survive it but thrive with the added responsibility.  Brian Boyle is a guy who could have sulked about his poor season and come back just looking to make the club as the same guy he was last season but instead he put in the work because instead of being content he wanted to improve and help this club and he has to the point that regardless of the name his game has earned him added chances.  Another major example was at least for one night with Rozsival on the shelf all the other D stepped up to pick up the slack for their missing man as Staal probably played his best defensive game, Eminger accepted the added role and was solid while Sauer and Gilroy both played well.  Finally comes the emergency outing last night of Martin Biron who was not expected to start at all, but when Lundqvist was ill he was ready to get the call for the team.  In warm-ups Anisimov drills him with a shot and he almost couldn’t go but with Lundqvist already down Biron stepped up and got the W.

With the talent that the team possesses this season they will have to play as a collective unit relying on one another and not just star names to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts on paper.  To be 8-7-1 with the key injuries they have had so far this season they have to be ok with that, but they also have to realize the difference between winning and losing in many of those games was not just individual talents, but playing the collective game and that is how a team truly forms.