NEW YORK RANGERS: Blueshirt All-Stars Named;
My Notable All-Blueshirt Mentions; and a Forgettable Game Against the Ottawa Senators.
Chalk one up for a real stay-home defensemen, and for one of the over all good guys in Hockey. Dan Girardi will take his place amongst the NHL's All-Stars this season when they all descend upon Ottawa, Canada. For the un-drafted defenseman, it's been a long road. Coach Torts came here and thought enough to trust the kid. That trust has just been rewarded in a sense, as his selection is very well deserved. If he's now an All-Star by NHL standards, then in the absence of Marc Staal, he's been a hero to the Rangers and Fans. Girardi has been having nothing short of a stellar season, and as far as I'm concerned shook off a largely exaggerated reputation for being soft. That's a separate discussion though. For now, he's been throwing his body around quite commendably this season.
Joining Dan Girardi in the NHL's mid-season classic will be goalie Henrik Lundqvist and forward Marian Gaborik. Turn a blind eye to Thursday night's shut-out loss against the Senators, and the least we can say about Henrik's season is he's been sharp as a razor blade. Suffice to say, Henrik Lundqvist is among the elite goalies in Hockey today. Marian Gaborik; the healthy Marian Gaborik; the real Marian Gaborik; is third in the NHL in goals, and leads the Rangers in points. He's skating with speed; has been very decisive with his shots; and is firing off lasers at the League's goalies.
In the spirit of the All-Star Game, here is my list of Honorable Blueshirts:
1) - Marty Biron - He's only the best back-up goalie in all of Hockey and we're damn lucky to have him. He's a mere 8-2 this season with non-ranked .922 Save Percentage and a 2.66 Goals-Against Average. The man has been brilliant.
2) - Brian Boyle - The guy has done absolutely everything a coach can ask. But the poor guy couldn't buy a goal in a flee market right now. No one ever accused him of being a consistent goal scorer, but to say he's behind last season's pace is putting things mildly. But then again, that's why Gaborik is here...right? Boyle has been as solid as granite. No goals is no problem.
3) - The Defense - Until now they've been without their leader; Marc Staal; all season. His return comes just in time as Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger continue to miss games. Led all season by All-Star Dan Girardi, guys like Sauer; Ryan McDonagh; and Michael Del Zotto in particular have all stepped up their games like ten year vets sporting playoff beards. The thing is, these guys can't even shave yet but collectively are among the league's elite defensive units. Then you have to marvel how guys like Anton Stralman and Stu Bickel have seamlessly fit in and played very well.
4) - Carl Hagelin - He looks like such a keeper.
5) - Brandon Prust - For his willingness to drop the gloves on what seems like a nightly basis.
BRING ON THE MAPLE LEAFS!
As for Thursday night's game against the Senators, it was their first loss of the new year and I've moved on already. After a loss like that, it's usually best to hit the road anyway. What else are we going to do, be mad they didn't win six in a row? After back-to-back losses to St. Louis and Dallas, the Rangers went on a 9-1 run before facing Ottawa. As for getting shut-out, the Senators played a defensively brilliant game. Sometimes we have to credit the other teams ya know. And I'll be honest, this morning when reminded we were playing Ottawa, my first thought was..., loss. And for no particular reason either.
I was looking ahead to Saturday anyway. I've been looking forward to this trip to Toronto ever since Deon Phaneuf put Michael Sauer out of commission with a concussion. On that note,the Maple Leafs have pounded us in two previous meetings this season by identical 4-2 scores. Through victory or defeat, we'll know far more about this Rangers team after this Maple Leafs game.
We're catching Toronto at a time when they've been playing very well of late. And there's something a little unsettling about getting manhandled this season by Northeast Division teams. Ottawa has owned the Rangers at MSG for years, and after Thursday's game, this season is no different. Add in the two losses to Toronto and splitting games with Montreal, and the only real success we've had against this division came against Buffalo. And don't look now, but the big showdown against the Boston Bruins looms ahead on January 21st.
Get ready Rangers Fans, I hope no one thought this was going to be easy considering how well we've played thus far. We've only now just entered double digit losses for the season. That's an incredible benchmark for this team and a testament to the work John Tortorella has done. But I'm still committed to calling this a rebuilding team...., that's still trying to get better.
Let's Go Rangers! Bring on the Maple Leafs!