By Brian Monzo
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You heard it from all the analysts, reporters and fans. The Rangers were dead for the first few weeks of the season as soon as Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal went down. At first, it didn’t look too good. They dropped the home opener, and failed to fire against the Av’s at home.
Since then, they have reeled off three straight wins. That said, that isn’t the surprising part. The surprising part is how they have won these games. They beat the Maple Leafs in Toronto with Marty Biron. They followed that with back to back wins over the Bruins and Devils as their young players and defense dominated.
What you are seeing is what you have wanted to see from this team for a few years. They are becoming a complete team. The line of of Artem Anisimov, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky has been on the ice for every situation. Brandon Prust has been his tough and rugged self, and is getting both power play and penalty kill time. Derek Stepan has continued to look like he fits at the NHL level and Michal Rozsival, normally a target of fans abuse has looked rejuvenated and healthy. As expected, Henrik Lundqvist looks to have found his game and has earned his last two wins.
Everyone knows in all of sports, injuries are no excuse. However, when three of your top players go down, you would expect a team to suffer. The Rangers have done the opposite and have excelled. They are playing physical in both ends, their discipline is improving and their play in the neutral zone has been as effective as it has been in the John Tortorella era.
Gaborik is still about two weeks away with Drury and Prospal both over 4-6 weeks away. The mentality of playing complete sixty minute games is going to have to continue for the success to continue. So far, it’s been a good start, but we have seen this in the past.
-Two words: Steven Stamkos. I wrote something almost identical a year ago. After scoring 51 goals last season, he has picked up where he left off, scoring eight goals in eight games. Scary.
-John Tavares scored his first career hat trick for the Islanders last week. You are seeing a growth in the Islanders that will lead them to the playoffs very soon.
-Alex Ovechkin, who appears in GQ this month, has gone three games without a point. That hasn’t happened since a stretch of games in February of 2008.
-On Ilya Kovalchuk being a healthy scratch on Saturday night against the Sabres for reportedly being late for a handful of practices, you’d think he’d fire his driver, Ray Emery.
What do the above four players have in common? All picked first overall in their drafts.
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