BATTLE of the HUDSON ~ II
Game 1 - Dec. 20, 2011
NYR 4 - NJD 1
NEW YORK RANGERS
New Jersey Devils
THE ROCK in BRICK CITY
Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi, and Marian Goborik represented the Rangers extremely well. But now that Hockey's mid-season SideShow is over and done, it's time to get back to work. I've never been one for All-Star Games but for the rest of Hockey's non-participants, rest does a body good. As it pertains to the Rangers, I hope they got plenty of it. The second half is going to be an exhaustive grind to say the least.
The Rangers will be seeing a lot more of the Devils between now and April. And that may not be a good thing. Because don't look now, but here comes New Jersey. Their fifty-five points are tied with Toronto and Florida for seventh in the Conference. Washington has fifty-five points as well, but lead the South Division over Florida.
The Devils are far from being the team they were this time last season. They were just beginning their upwards swing after a catastrophic start to their 2010-2011 season. They came on like gang-busters towards the end to save their season. But alas, their eighty-one points weren't enough to make the playoffs. Ninety-three points however, were. That's where the Rangers came in. Last season they secured the final Eastern Conference spot with a furious finish of their own.
This season, the Rangers will start the second half in first place of the Eastern Conference. That makes them marked men. The first half was nothing in comparison to the level of play the good teams will now elevate towards. The natural question to ask is - Can these young Rangers sustain their game? And a better question is - Can they elevate as well?
A few things need to happen over the next two plus months in order for the Blueshirts to not only continue playing well and competing against the elite teams of the League, but even elevate their game as well.
The Power Play MUST improve. When will they learn to get opposing heads turning and getting bodies moving in different directions? Take shots and create confusion. The Rangers can not; have not; and will not; scatter bodies by merely passing around the perimeter. The Rangers must do more because teams just go into Turtle-Shell mode on them. For that, they should just decline the penalty and stay at even strength. : /
It's hard to knock a guy like him, but Brandon Dubinsky must finally start finding the back of the net. Goals are paramount from this moment on. And to a lesser degree, some more goals are needed from the Captain too. And then there's Artem Anisimov. He's melting under the Coach's glare. Get it together Kid. And good luck with that.
Because the Devils aren't joking around this season. They look like they want to stick around and play meaningful Hockey. Patrick Elias continues to master New Jersey's very thin Centerman Corps. And somehow, Coach DeBoer figured out how to negotiate being over-loaded at wing. Their young defensemen have played representative hockey as well. No, this isn't last season's first half team. This is closer to last year's second half dynamo. This year's edition is a very good team indeed. And every time I see them win another game, I'm like - Damn! How do they do it? Oh yeah, Marty Brodeur is having fun again.
Enjoy the game. Let's Go Rangers.