I am not one of these people that panics immediately. Last season after a horrible midseason stretch, I wrote the Rangers off, and even though they made a late season run, they failed to make the playoffs. Now, 2-2-1, the Rangers are not dominant, but definitely a good team and a great watch.
I am NOT going to do that this season. I’ve seen enough in the first five games to feel confident that the Rangers will perform at a high enough level to compete with any team in the league. That said, not only the Rangers have this ability. The young Toronto Maple Leafs have had a great start as well as the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning.
With Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal all out for extended periods of time, all of the secondary players have to get it going.
Much like every team, there are ups and downs, but I have seen more ups than downs. Like…
-The growth of Artem Anisimov. He was solid last season, scoring 12 goals and adding 16 assists, but he was a little sluggish and looked like a rookie. However, five games into the season he looks like a completely different player. He is faster, stronger and looks ten times more confident. His line has been the Rangers best line all season, along with Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky.
-Dan Girardi is Mr. Consistent. I know he doesn’t do anything flashy, but the guy shows up every game, plays over 20 minutes and plays in all situations. He hasn’t missed a game in three seasons and puts up 25 points a season. He is the kind of player that sticks around for 10+ seasons on a team.
-Like him or hate him, Sean Avery is a crucial part of the team. He did something very dumb against the Maple Leafs in the home opener in slashing Mike Komisarek and taking a bad penalty. He came out of the penalty box flying, setting up the game-tying goal. The point is, he does some dumb things, but he performs. This season, it seems as if he is on a mission, notching four assists in games.
-Rookie Derek Stepan is a player. It was as if he flew under the radar as a prospect (which is amazing, considering he captained Team USA in the 2009 World Junior Tournament), and has emerged as the Rangers leading scorer after five games. He is not overly flashy, but as hard a worker as they come. He seemed to fit the role as an NHL player right out of the gate and will fill a huge role as the season progresses.
-The huge negative has been the special teams. The penalty kill is at 75%, good for 26th in the league and the power power is clicking just over 10%, 19th best in the NHL. Those numbers aren’t going to get it done. Granted Henrik Lundqvist has struggled early, and the Gaborik and Drury injuries play a huge role in why then special teams have struggled. Still, there is enough hard working talent to improve the special teams.
I don’t want to to blow things out of proportion, but as someone who sees the whole picture, there is a lot of upside. They are 42 wins away from the 44 win prediction I gave in the preview. I am sticking with it….
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