Do you know what happens in 8 days? The Rangers open their season in Pittsburgh, and I am extremely excited! So should all of the Rangers fans out there. This is the first season in a few years that I have a general overall good feeling for this team. Here are my top ten reason's why I'm excited and the analysis for each:
10. Vincent Prospal. I wrote a post earlier about how one free agent signing can change a team, and how Vinny Prospal does exactly that. A former goal scorer that could regain form on a line with the likes of Brandon Dubinksy and Marion Gaborik. Prospal has been coached in the past by Tortorella, and has stated that he and the coach have no ill will. Look for Prospal to have a rebound from a poor season with the Tampa Bay Lightning last year.
9. Brandon Dubinsky is back. I have always loved the young Dubinsky, and argued that even though he is holding out, Brandon Dubinksy will have a break out year with the New York Rangers. Dubinsky is building on a sophmore slump where he had 41 points (1 more than his rookie year), and is excited to be with the team. I honestly don't care about the holdout, because that is all in the past. Move on and start centering some great lines Brandon.
8. Christopher Higgins. Higgins is a former 20 goal scorer with the Montreal Canadiens and had a rough season after an injury. He's signed for one year (hopefully more after this year) with the Rangers and is in a contract year. I think he can score 30 goals. Higgins and Ryan Callahan should be on a line together, and whoever is centering them should have a career year. Higgins will score those dirty goals, help on the Power Play (or in our case the Powerless Play), and can even play on the Penalty Kill. Got to love Chris Higgins!
7. Henrik Lundqvist hopefully playing less games this year. As we all know the Olympics will be drawing our beloved NHL players duing February, and everyone remembers Henrik Lundqvist's infamous flame out during his rookie year. Hopefully the veteran netminder can handle the Olympics and the rigorous NHL schedule, but he should still play less games. Let Henrik play 62-65 games instead of his usual 72-75 and let Stephen Valliquette take up to 20 games. Valliquette has proven to be a quality backup, so let him prove himself. Giving Lundqvist some rest will keep him fresh for April when the games really matter.
6. Hopefully a 5th straight year in the Playoffs. After the "Dark Years" where the Rangers missed the playoffs from 1997-98 until 2005-06. The Rangers have the opportunity to make the playoffs for the 5th straight year (and hopefully get past the second round!). It's going to be tough especially in the Atlantic Division, but I know Chris Drury and crew will make it to the games that count.
5. Artem Anisimov. After years of failed prospects the Rangers are getting younger and some nice draft picks are establishing themselves. One that I am especially excited about is Artem Anisimov. Drafted in the 2nd Round in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Anisimov just finished his second year in Hartford posting career numbers. His 81 points in 80 games earned him a spot on the All Star team and helping the Hartford Wolf Pack to a division title! Anisimov should find himself as a 3rd line center under coach John Tortorella. Look for a nice solid Rookie Year (and maybe some nice hardware) from young Anisimov.
4. Two Rookies on defense. If all goes according to plan Matt Gilroy and Michael Del Zotto should be 2 of our starting defensemen on opening night. Gilroy, and undrafted free agent from Boston University and Hobey Baker award winner, showed very quickly that he belonged on this team. He quickly established himself as our 5th defensemen, and continued to have an amazing camp. Michael Del Zotto came in here with nothing to lose, but quickly showed he belonged. Del Zotto will be a force on the Rangers, hopefully, improved power play. Del Zotto paired with maybe Ales Kotalik could be some great pointmen for the Rangers. Del Zotto has earned his spot, with Bobby Sanguinetti being sent down, but can he last the full 82 game season? Maybe, but I think he can.
3. Opening Night In Pittsburgh. I'm excited to, hopefully, spoil the defending champions and division rival's Pittsburgh Penguins banner raising night. Hopefully this team can get off to a fast start, and actually keep it this time. October 2nd here we come!
2. Depth. Looking at the roster of this team, there are many goals that this team can accomplish. We only have 1 true superstar (Marion Gaborik), but we have 3 solid lines full of players that can score. This team on paper could have 8 20 goal scorers. Marion Gaborik, Chris Higgins, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Ales Kotalik, Brandon Dubinksy, Enver Lisin, and Vincent Prospal could all easily chip in 20. Maybe even Avery has 15, and Brian Boyle and Donald Brashear have 10 goals. That's a pretty deep forward lineup. This a team that is going to get the job done under John Tortorella and make some New Yorkers very happy!
1. The superstar himself Marion Gaborik. 2 years ago he had 40 goals, and last year he had 13 goals in 17 games. Gaborik caused some concerns by saying that he was sore at the beginning of camp, but being a rower and the member of my university's crew team I wake up sore every day. Now I don't play professional hockey, but soreness after an offseason seems like something that will happen to everyone. Gaborik has looked phenomenal in the preseason, and could be an offensive dynamo for Tortorella! I'm not saying he's going to brake Jaromir Jagr's goal record, but 40 should be an easy goal for Gaborik this season. I'm excited for the breakaways, the rubber hitting the twine, and the arms in the air of celebration. I plan on seeing number 10 on the back of the jersey plenty of times and loving it every time.
That's why I'm excited about this season. Hopefully everything lives up and we have a great season. LETS GO RANGERS!
Missed the cut: John Tortorella's temper tantrums, and Avery's shenanigans!