NEW YORK RANGERS: Blueshirts Man-Handle NHL's Elite Teams.
So, Who Exactly Are These Guys Anyway?
Thirty-two games into the season may be an odd time to take stock of the Rangers. But a closer look at this team is warranted after the Blueshirts thoroughly manhandled two of the NHL's elite.
The Washington Capitals were already in a mini tail-spin by the time they arrived at Madison Square Garden. But I don't think anyone anticipated the 7-0 drubbing the Rangers inflicted upon the Capital City Skaters. I sure didn't.
In this game, Chris Drury finally made his return from missing virtually the entire season with multiple breaks to his finger. The Rangers completely shut down Alex Ovechkin and had him frustrated enough to get into a some-what rare fight with Brandon Dubinsky. With the win over Washington, the Rangers evened-up their series against the Capitals. The Rangers lost their first game together back in November.
Then the Rangers took the sizzle of the Caps game to Pittsburgh with them, where they proceeded to beat Sidney "SLEW" and the Penguins four goals to one. Once again, an NHL elite team was thoroughly shut down by the Rangers and the second "elite" player in successive games was held in check. Sidney Crosby could only muster an assist on an Evgeni Malkin goal during the Ranger win.
It was the third time the Rangers and Penguins faced off this year. The Rangers beat the Penguins back in November in a game that went into over-time. Last month the Penguins repaid the favor. The Rangers now enjoy a 2 games to 1 advantage over their PITT rival.
So what do we make of a team that just manhandled the Capitals and the Penguins in consecutive games?
Going into tonight's game with the Coyotes, the Rangers were 19-13-1; good for 39 points. That makes them the 5th best team in the Conference when you adjust for the division leaders. The top team in the Conference is Philadelphia with 47 points; then Pitt with 44 points.
There are only 7 teams in the NHL with 100 or more goals scored this season. It's damn near remarkable that, as much as "we" howl about the Rangers not having a top-flight scorer on the roster, the Rangers are one of those seven teams. Three of those seven teams play in the Atlantic Division; The Penguins, Flyers, and yours truly...the New York Rangers. The only other Eastern Conference team with 100+ goals scored is the Atlanta Thrashers.
Defensively, the Rangers are 6th best in the Conference which also is a surprising stat after watching how hard they work and how gritty they are. I thought they might be slightly better than they are. I was slightly surprised at how the numbers reflect their effectiveness in a lesser light based on my own impressions of the team.
In another way to look at this team, the Rangers would occupy first place in four other NHL divisions if they didn't play in the Atlantic with Pittsburgh and Philly. Go figure.
Their games have ranged everywhere from very good to very bad this season. In a game back in November the Rangers drilled the Oilers 8-2. Then, there was the most recent game against the Capitals, in-which the Rangers won 7-0. But there have been ugly games like a 6-4 loss to the Islanders and a 6-4 loss to Atlanta, both early on in October. In November, I recall a 5-1 beat-down at the hands of Colorado. Incidentally we have lost two games to Colorado this season.
Somehow, the Rangers achieved a 9-7 record in November. But most of those wins came against the second division. The losses piled up against the League's better teams. Game losses against Chicago; Philly; St. Louis; Washington; Boston; Colorado; Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were hardly balanced with wins against quality teams such as Chicago; PITT and Nashville.
They split their games against Chicago, Boston and Ottawa. And as I mentioned they are 1-1 against the Capitals and 2-1 versus the Penguins.
Someone once said you are what your record says you are. The Rangers have been everything we fans have a responsible right to expect of them.
But what does it all mean?
The Answer ~ We are a third place club in the Atlantic Division; Nothing more; Nothing less. We'll have really good nights and horrific ones too. But on a night-in, night-out basis, they will be a hard working bunch. At least we know that much.
RYAN CALLAHAN ~ will be out for the next month and a half due to a broken hand he sustained when attempting to block a shot very early in the game against Pittsburgh. This is a huge and frustrating blow to the Blueshirts. Just as we were getting Chris Drury back, we lost the player who embodies this current addition of Broadway Blueshirts the most.
SEAN AVERY ~ Here I go again. Now that Callahan will miss extensive time, how about giving Sean Avery his spot along side Dubinsky and Anisimov? Or, at a minimum moving him up to the third line?
Upon Drury's return, Coach Torts promptly put Chris on line with Avery and Christensen. I can deal with that combination. But now that Coach Torts has a genuine reason to incessantly tinker with his forward lines, do we really know what combinations we may see in the very near future?