By Brian Monzo
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We’re two games into the second half of the season and the Rangers find themselves three points richer.
More importantly, the Rangers hold their grasp on the first position in the Eastern Conference with 69 points and a record of 32-12-5.
Even in games like last night, and probably somewhere in 15 of their 32 wins, they weren’t the best team the entire game. There’s a valid argument that the Sabres outplayed the Rangers last night, but New York continues to be the team to come out on top. This is has been something that has puzzled me all season, but I guess what’s being shown is that this is how the Rangers have to win. They aren’t the most talented squad, but their team as whole plays to win.
I haven’t mentioned any players yet…
This week’s guy is the King, Henrik Lundqvist. His play throughout the entire season has been the best, and most consistent, of his career. His numbers are staggering. He has shutouts in three of his last five starts, has a save percentage of nearly .940 and is playing to a goals against average of 1.82. If the Rangers can find a way to consistently score three goals per game, they won’t lose many contests.
The Rangers’ defense plays a complete shutdown system and are rarely out of position. They force plays to the outside, and they block a countless amount of shots. Even without Steve Eminger and Michael Sauer, the defense has gotten good enough play from Stu Bickel and Anton Stralman to fill the voids. Marc Staal is still no where near 100 percent, but as his game improves, the Rangers’ defense will get stronger. Eminger, coming off of a shoulder separation, could be back in two weeks, and Sauer is still struggling with a concussion, for which there is no time table. Truth be told, I anticipate him missing the rest of the season.
The Rangers’ power play continues to be a disaster. There is no flow, no system and no confidence. It seems as though everything they’ve tried hasn’t worked. It will eventually come back to bite them unless they fix it.
They also need to find a way to get Brandon Dubinsky going, as he still has only five goals this season.
The last thing that needs to get better for the Rangers is their choice of shooters in shootouts. They can’t be throwing out Brad Richards (now 0-for-7) anymore as one of their top three shooters. Richards is struggling as it is, but because they are winning his play hasn’t hurt the team. He can’t be out there for the shootout. I’d personally like to Carl Hagelin and Michael Del Zotto in the shootout. They are both crafty with the puck, and opponents will not know what to expect from them, which makes them dangerous. We all know Richards is going glove side, and it’s just a matter of forehand or backhand.
As the trade deadline approaches, I would be shocked if the Rangers do anything too extravagant. I wouldn’t be shocked if they looked for a depth defenseman. Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin could be someone they look at. Another guy mentioned from Phoenix that would look great in a Rangers jersey is Shane Doan. I wouldn’t be surprised if Glen Sather calls Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson and offers a mid-round draft pick to bring back forward Vinny Prospal. Prospal had good chemistry with Marian Gaborik in his two season with the Rangers.
The Rangers get a few days off now before a huge division battle with the Flyers on Sunday afternoon. I wonder what they will be watching that night after the game?
Follow Brian on Twitter @BMonzoWFAN
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