Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rangers Collect Fifth Straight Win Behind Dubinsky Goal, Lundqvist Shutout

This was one of those classic trap games where the New York Rangers come in on a four game win streak, fighting for but gaining some cushion in the playoff race taking on a Florida Panthers team with absolutely nothing to lose.  I could sit here and try to dress this game up as a thrilling 1-0 game between the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers, but if you saw it you would just be insulted.  Instead what we saw was basically a snooze fest that saw the Rangers dominate for portions of the game get absolutely no reward thanks to the work of Tomas Vokoun.  The good news is that the Rangers in the end got the job done with a 1-0 win over Florida and extended the winning streak to five games.
The Rangers would finally strike in the third when Brandon Dubinsky scored the lone goal of the game.  The play was made in part by Artem Anisimov making a great play in front with his skates to keep the pressure alive while Ryan Callahan worked his way into the play.  Callahan would then feed Dubinsky in front for the tap in to the empty net.
The rest of the action was for Henrik Lundqvist to dispose of the twenty two shots the Panthers threw his way in order to collect his league leading tenth shutout of the season.  It is the stretch run and once again Lundqvist is carrying this team to the brink of the playoffs.
  • Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan is the Rangers top line whether you want to call them that or not. They are the engine that runs this team and when they produce this team is hard to beat
  • Wolski was awful tonight and I would expect Avery to get a chance to play either against Ottawa or Boston.
  • Steve Eminger was excellent tonight in filling in for Marc Staal.

Staal To Sit Again, Time To Worry About How Serious His Injury Is?

Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
I do not want to hit the panic button in terms of any injury, but it is starting to feel necessary when it comes to Marc Staal and his undisclosed injury that will keep him out for the second straight game tonight.  Rangers’ coach John Tortorella is refusing to reveal the nature of the injury which is the smart move in terms of preventing Staal from being targeted when he returns to the lineup, but you have to wonder how soon that will be and at what level he will return.

The general assumption even if not officially disclosed is that the injury for Staal is related his prior knee injury which he suffered against Carolina a month ago and caused him to miss three games at the time.  If he has re-aggravated the knee then things could be relatively serious in terms of his effectiveness down the stretch and in the playoffs.  It also makes you wonder at just how serious the first injury was when he probably pushed himself to come back sooner than he should have and once again question the sheer number of minutes he has been logging this year.

If this is injury is something that causes Staal to miss significant time, is going to linger or becomes something that forces him think on the ice about how it is going to react those are bad things for the Rangers in crunch time.  For now day-to-day is ok, but until he starts at least skating again I will have my finger near the panic button because if the Rangers are going to have a chance they need 18 back there patrolling the blue line and smashing down the opposing team’s top offensive players.

Marian Gaborik Finding Consistent Form At The Perfect Time

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
The New York Rangers are making their annual late season charge on the playoffs and one of the key reasons for their recent success has been their sniper Marian Gaborik finding his form.  For much of this season Gaborik has either exploded for huge performances or been virtually invisible, but over the past two weeks he has found his game more consistently and it is paying huge dividends for New York.  Gaborik is currently on a five game point streak in which he has five goals and one assist.  He is currently on his first three game goal streak of the season which is difficult to believe given how prolific he was in netting 42 goals last year.  This streak comes on the heels of only 2 goals in 14 games.

The main difference for Gaborik has been his willingness to skate and how many other things in his game it opens up.  Of those five goals two have come from in front of the net, one he found in the slot and the other two came off the rush.  The variety of goal scoring plays also bodes well for Gaborik as he is doing it in multiple ways and adding confidence to all parts of his game.  Two weeks earlier he like fails to score at least three of those goals either from a lack of confidence in his shot or his failure to be in some of those areas. 

As important as the sheer number of goals or points has been the times at which he has been getting them recently.  In the past three games he has two game winning goals in and arguably his biggest goal of the season Sunday against the Penguins to tie the game and start the Rangers rally.  These are the kinds of plays the Rangers need form Gaborik in this stretch drive and if they have hopes of advancing in the playoffs.  He does not have to be a great player for the entire night, but he does have to be a threat and cash in with those big goals to propel this team.

More than the goal scoring itself the problem for Gaborik has been his lack of consistent threat to the opposition.  When is going like he is right now it forces everyone on the opposing team to account and gameplan for how to stop him.  If he can produce in the face of that it is tremendous for the team, but even if he cannot it allows everyone else on the team to either have more space on the ice with him or weaker competition against them. 

What his production also does is alleviate the pressure from players who are better suited to be secondary options in the scoring department to go back to their normal roles without the pressure of having to carry the offense.  The ability to put the puck in the net is certainly about skill, but it is also about confidence and when your best offensive player has his confidence, or even a swagger back to his game it filters throughout the lineup and everyone gets in on the act. The consistency of results has also allowed coach John Tortorella to leaves lines together and that is an understated factor in the Rangers' recent success.

Other players have stepped up this season whether it be Callahan, Dubinsky, Boyle, Stepan, and Anisimov as all could end up with 20+ goals, but the Rangers offensive force has to be Marian Gaborik if they are going to succeed in the playoffs and luckily he is finding his form at the best possible time.