Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dubinsky Putting Early Struggles In The Past

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
The New York Rangers have had a phenomenal 2011-12 campaign thus far as they sit in first place in the Eastern Conference as New Year's Eve hits.  However, the team success does not mean that all players have played to expectations thus far.  One such player has been forward Brandon Dubinsky.  Coming into the 2011-12 season the expectations for Dubinsky were extremely high following a career season and brand new long-term contract this summer.  Dubinsky was coming off a season in which he led the Rangers in goals (24), assists (30) and points (54) being rewarded with a four-year, $16.8 million contract.  

Early in the season Dubinsky was doing a number of things right, but not being rewarded in the goal column.  He finally broke through with his first goal of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov 11.  That was the Rangers' 15th game of the season.  The thought was that now Dubinsky would get hot as the monkey was off his back.  Instead Dubinsky's play actually slipped to a lower level than it had been before he finally scored.  After another long goal drought Dubinsky found himself with one goal and 12 assists through his first 31 games on the season.  Conversation was rampant about how Dubinsky needed to not just be moved down the lineup, but benched altogether.

Now that conversation has been flipped from benching Dubinsky to hoping that this time he has truly turned the corner and is back to being a core player for the team.  In the past five games Dubinsky has scored three goals and added two assists, but his impact goes beyond the numbers.  Dubinsky is back to being a physical presence both in hitting and in his play along the wall.  His forechecking has picked up significantly and he has found a home playing with Brian Boyle and John Mitchell.  That line has been so effective in dictating the game that coach John Tortorella has turned to in the third period of games to preserve leads.

There is no denying that Dubinsky struggled mightily during the Rangers first third of the season and the team found ways to win without getting his typical contributions, but a productive Dubinsky is huge for the Rangers final goals this season.