The Rangers have played 20 games, essentially a quarter of the season is in the books already. I think to say this team is an enigma would be an understatement. They hit the ground running, getting off to a 7-1 start that had most fans revising their modest expectations for the Blueshirts heading into the season.
But since the hot start, the Rangers have gone a meager 4-7-1, and many fans are spitting out the Kool-Aid they were drinking by the gallon in October. As they begin to start the next quarter against the Caps tomorrow night at the Garden, let's take a look at what's going right and wrong with this team:
What's going right:
Marian Gaborik: The biggest roll of the dice in NHL free agency is paying huge dividends thus far for the Rangers. Gaborik has been the Rangers best player, already with 13 goals and 12 assists. Of course it has not been without its drama, as Ranger Nation held its collective breath while Gabby sat out two games with a knee injury.
Vinny Prospal: The best million-plus dollars the Rangers have ever spent. Prospal has been a gem, playing wing, center, and even earning himself an "A" on the sweater. Without Gabby and Vinny, the Rangers would be neighbors to the Leafs and Canes in the EastCon standings.
Michael Del Zotto: With 15 points in his first 20 NHL games, he has been a big part of the resurrection of the Rangers power play. His defense has been better than most expected. Definite early candidate for the Calder Trophy.
Henrik Lundqvist: I would make the argument here (and I know some of you agree) that Hank has not looked like the Lundqvist of previous years. There have been more goals that would be classified as "on Lundy" than usual. But the other side of the argument is that he is still one of the best in the league.
The Power Play: After finishing 29th overall last year, this year it has been a Ranger strength, currently ranked 9th overall. In addition to Gaborik, Prospal, and Zots, Ales Kotalik has been a big part of their success with the man advantage. It's been slumping of late, but overall you have to be thrilled with the improvement.
The Penalty Kill: Many thought the loss of Blair Betts and Freddie Sjostrom would leave the Rangers weak when down a man. In reality, they really haven't lost a step, and are third in the league at killing penalties.
What's Going Wrong after the jump......
What's Going Wrong:
Chemistry: The first few weeks of the season for the Rangers, everything was clicking offensively. Now, it seems as though these Rangers met on a "speed date" and went right to the altar. Was it all just "beginner's luck"? Only Gaborik and Prospal have clicked consistently all year long, everything else has been a crapshoot.
Brandon Dubinsky: While you could make the argument that with 10 points in 18 games, Dubi isn't really "going wrong", but seven of those points came in three games. Dubinsky lost his spot on the first line, was benched in the Rangers loss to the Canadiens. Tortorella has been critical of him, and I still maintain Torts has it out for Dubinsky because of the holdout. Dubinsky is currently out 3-6 weeks with a broken bone in his hand, and hopefully will find his game upon his return, or he may find himself on the trading block.
Ryan Callahan: While Ryan has played well in some areas, his scoring is not there right now when the Rangers need it most. This is when an Alternate earns his letter.
Chris Higgins: One of the main components in the Scott Gomez trade, Higgins has been a major disappointment so far in New York with only two goals. He's being used at center now with the injuries to Dubinsky and Chris Drury.
Michael Rozsival: Many Ranger fans expected a bounce-back year from Rozy, but so far it hasn't happened. Whether the surgery he had took something out of him, or he has just gotten old, he has been terrible through the first 6 weeks of the season.
Sean Avery: We discussed last week whether Sean was holding back because of the bullseye on his sweater, or because the coaching staff had the reins on him. Either way, this is not the Sean Avery that the Rangers need.
Marc Staal and Matt Gilroy: I lumped these two together because I think they are two heads of the same coin. I think Staal's game is regressing because he is a defensive defenseman worrying too much about his offense, and Gilroy is an offensive defenseman worried too much about his defense. I've said it a hundred times, I think these two should be paired together so they can both focus on doing what they do best.
Right now, 11-8-1 at face value looks like a decent record, but it's the way they got there that has us all concerned. Plenty to work on for the next twenty, starting tomorrow night against the Caps.