Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Erik Christensen Is Becoming A Consistent Factor For the Rangers

Nick Laham/Getty Images
There are few if any players as frustrating and infuriating than the New York Rangers Erik Christensen, but as much as he has been criticized for his inconsistency both in effort and production he now deserves equal praise.  On the season Christensen’s numbers are very poor with 11 goals and 12 assists in 52 games.  Those numbers only look worse when you consider the number of opportunities he has had to play with Marian Gaborik on the top line and on the power play.  However, over his last seven games Christensen has put things together much more consistently with five goals and four assists while only going scoreless in two of those contests.  This is the kind of production that everyone has been hoping to see from him for some time and while he is not well liked by many fans because of his inconsistent history he must stay in the lineup when he is going like this.
When he is at his best he can make plays with the puck that few others on the team can make.  He has tremendous passing skill and a very good, quick wrist shot and hands all of which he displays prominently in the shootout.  The problem had been his inability to do anything of value in the first 60-65 minutes, but over this last stretch of games the good is showing up with frequency and the invisible Christensen seems to have disappeared from reality.

The change seems to stem from meetings that Tortorella and Christensen had around the Washington game late last month where they discussed what he needed to do in order to maintain his spot in the lineup.  What has resulted in a more confident and aggressive player who has stop floating around on the ice and started making quick decisions on what he wants to do and following through. 
I thought he was unfairly benched against Philly and Anaheim based on how he had been playing, but he has responded beautifully to his two game absence and been a huge factor in both games, especially last night.  Each time the puck was on his stick he was dangerous whether it was for himself or his teammates.  Anything that you get from him really has to be considered a bonus, and right now he the Rangers are very happy with these bonus checks he is delivering.  For a guy who just three weeks ago was good for little other than as a shootout specialist and was seen as the odd-man out, he has turned himself into one of the most important offensive players who must stay in.  With Christensen you must always exercise a bit of caution in terms of whether it will last, but for now you have to give him full marks for stepping up when the team has really needed him.