Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rangers Week In Review 11/8-11/14 : Gaborik's Skill Returns But Hard Work Remains So Far

The Rangers opened the week at 7-6-1 coming off a nice a relatively lackluster performance against the St. Louis Blues in a 2-0 loss that opened a four game home-stand.  This week they would play the last three games of that stand and while it would start slow with the loss to Washington on Tuesday it would end with their most decisive win of the season today versus the young Oilers.  The rollercoaster that the Rangers have been on for the most of the season is definitely on an up loop because of them winning, how they won and the fact that they started to win some games at home.  It also doesn’t hurt to get your best offensive player not only back in the lineup but back on track as they did today with the performance of not only Marian Gaborik but what he did for the previously struggling Alexander Frolov and Erik Christensen.  If this team can continue to play with some balance offensively, play with the tough efforts using the fore-check and cycle they learned to play with more in Gaborik’s absence and add his skill to it, maybe they minimize the downs and play on a more consistent up from here.  Hope is back as the week concludes, but in order to see why we must go back to earlier in the week when it did not look so pretty.

On Tuesday Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals came to Madison Square Garden for the first matchup of the season between the two teams and while the Rangers would keep Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Green from scoring goals they would not hold down the rest of the Capitals in a 5-3 loss.  The highlights for the Rangers were that their giants Brian Boyle and Derek Boogaard would combine to score the three goals on the evening, which for Boogaard snapped a 234 game scoreless streak.  The low lights other than the loss itself were the Rangers once again losing a game they were in going into the 3rd period as a 3-3 tie turned into a 5-3 loss dropping the Rangers to 1-7-1 on the season in games they were tied or trailing in going into the final period.  The game winner against was the worst of the goals from the defensive standpoint as Michael Del Zotto, Michal Rozsival and Derek Stepan all failed in their individual responsibilities on the play which finally ended with Matt Hendricks getting the fourth and decisive goal.

On Thursday the Rangers would take the ice with reinforcements backing them up as superstar Marian Gaborik returned to the lineup after a 12 game absence to face the Buffalo Sabres.  In the game Gaborik would play well, skated very well, but also showed some of the expected rust in his timing.  For the most part the Rangers played the game as if he was not there in terms of not deferring to him nor did they sit and wait for him to carry them to the promise land which was a very good sign for the growth the team had without him.  Another good sign of the “team” getting better was the fact that with Henrik Lundqvist unexpectedly out with the flu there was not mass panic over the fact that Martin Biron had to play and he stepped in and did his job well again. 

During the game the Rangers displayed for Gaborik first-hand how they had been scoring in his absence since all three of the goals they would get in the 3-2 OT win would be dirty/hard-working goals based on fore-check and cycle work.  The first would come from Ruslan Fedotenko, who would later get his second goal in two games taken away, after a tremendous shift from Prust, Boyle and Fedotenko along with an excellent pinch by Michael Sauer on the goal itself.  The Artem Anisimov goal late in the second also came off a hard working shift in which Dubinsky would end up with the puck behind the Sabre net in the last minute of the second period and put it out front for the Anisimov finish and a 2-1 lead.  The low lights for the Rangers were that both goals they would surrender on the night came on plays in which the goals could have been prevented by better defensive clearance.  The highs were definitely the ending in which Anisimov scored 1:32 into OT, getting a home win, winning a game that was tied going into the 3rd, the return of Gaborik and the rest of the team, especially Anisimov continuing to show the growth they are making this year.

The week would wrap up this afternoon with the 8-2 drubbing of the Edmonton Oilers in which the skill of Marian Gaborik was the spark to get the hard work of the rest of the Rangers going not once but twice in this game.  He got them going early in the first by eventually scoring his first goal of the season on a play started by his fantastic moves through the neutral zone.  The Rangers fed off that for the rest of the period, but after a lackluster start to the second Gaborik would re-ignite them with a breakaway goal that tied the game at 2.  From there on there was no stopping the blaze as the Rangers outworked and out skilled the young Oilers on the way to rattling off the last seven goals of the game including Boyle, Fedotenko, Anisimov and Alexander Frolov getting a desperately needed two goals before Gaborik netting the hat-trick for the eighth and final goal in the 8-2 win.  Obviously not every game will be like this because not every game will the offense work this well nor will the opposition defense be this poor but this was the huge breakout game the Frolov’s and Christensen’s of this team needed.  Brand Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle have been playing over their heads so far this year in terms of carrying the team’s offensive production and to get other skilled players going to help out is huge for the overall team prognosis.  One game does not cure the ills that have plagued the rollercoaster ride that has been the season, but the Rangers end the week riding high at 9-7-1 overall having to go to Pittsburgh tomorrow night.  If the effort tomorrow and going forward is like it was today where they can mix the skill they have in players like Gaborik with the fore-check, cycle and physical play they used without him in there then this team can be more than just an 8th seed this season.  Now comes the real test for the Rangers; consistently proving it.