Originally posted this over at Rangerland.net, but thought you guys over here would love it too! Just to warn you there are some references to things I said there at the beginning of the season, so hence the beginning. And references to myself, but just enjoy. (Dos Nueve is Chad Johnson if you don't get the joke just don't worry.)
Remember waaaaaaaaaaaay back to before the season when myself (and someone else who I can't exactly remember) said this team could have 8 20 goal scorers: Gaborik, Prospal, Kotalik, Callahan, Avery, Dubinsky, Drury, and Higgins? Well obviously we are going to fall short in that category, but the point is this roster has potential.
I know I completely overuse the word potential, but usually I use it half seriously. I still think this roster still has some potential. Most people forget how grueling an 82 NHL game schedule is. It is one of the longest in sports, and I'm not going out on a limb when I say it might be just as grueling, if not more, than the 162 game baseball schedule.
The point I'm trying to make with that is that I am starting to believe the Rangers are starting to hit their stride for the season. We are starting to see more of the secondary scoring start to emerge, and Gaborik isn't completely taking this team on his back. By hitting their stride I mean the Rangers are starting to figure out their game more and starting to emerge as a cohesive unit. That does not mean this team is getting hot, it means this team is starting to play better. But xcdude how can you say that after a soul crushing loss in a meaningless shootout? Because as Checky points out this team is gaining points and getting a little streak going. (Also to address this game in one statement: don't forget these guys are beating the crap out of each other basically every other night and its tough to muster intense energy for 60 minutes two nights in a row. We escaped with a points, BUT good teams find ways to get points no matter what. Period.)
As I said earlier hitting their stride doesn't mean this team is getting hot. We might lose a few games in a row that we play hard in. The point is this team is starting to figure out more and more how to win, and get points. They are taking advantage of the loser points system and using to their advantage because this team's number one strength is goaltending. I think Dos Nueve should get a few more starts to audition for more of a platoon system to give Lundqvist that needed rest because rookie goaltenders always do well in the short term. Let's hope that short term lasts until the Olympic break, so Lundqvist can go into it semi fresh, and come out of it healthy enough to carry this team when they need him the most. But I digress. By going 7-1-3 in out last 11 we are starting a nice little streak to gain momentum. Its like in football I always praise a team for long drives. Its those drives (that eat clock) and define games usually. If the team gains a few yards at a time, but keeps going and then gets the points when the time is right. Hopefully the Rangers can do just that. Keep staying in contention, then getting hot at the right time. The Penguins did it for 2 straight seasons and went to two straight Stanley Cups.
Will the Rangers go that far? I don't know. The NHL playoffs are so amazing because they are so unpredictable. 4 years ago we had an 8 seed (Edmonton) in the Stanley Cup Finals. President Cup teams have lost in the first round, so I can't say how this team will do. I can say this: what is coming the next month will define this team. If we can keep this up and build more momentum we are a playoff team. If not they can squeak in, totally fail, or surprise us all. BUT if the Rangers keep playing good consistent hockey, we might just have a force to be reckoned with on our hands. Stay with this team boys, we've got POTENTIAL and a scrappy group of individuals who might just show us in the coming month how to win.
Plus we have Marian Gaborik, and he is just plain awesome.