ILWT: The New Jersey Devils have struggled in an awful way in recent games, but the Rangers have lost their last 3 games. Is there a cause for concern, or is it overblown given the opponents and the fact that two of the losses came in overtime?
BSB: When you are a mediocre team and you lose three in a row, there is always cause for concern. The Rangers are in their annual frenetic run for the 8th seed, and as per usual have no margin for error. The Pittsburgh loss is one that could come back to haunt them. After chasing Fleury with 4 goals on 12 shots, they simply stopped shooting the puck for almost a period and a half, and lost a very winnable game that they led by two goals. You simply can't do those things when you are in their position.
ILWT: Chris Drury, Ryan Callahan, and Marian Gaborik were the Rangers' skaters at the Olympics and since coming back they have combined for only 3 goals: 2 from Callahan on 3/2 and 1 from Drury on 3/4. Are you pleased with their performances so far?
BSB: I've had to temper my expectations on Ryan Callahan this season. I like the way he plays the game, but I don't know if he is ever going to be the scorer I thought he would be. I will say this much, I am rarely disappointed in his play. Drury is a guy I and a lot of other Ranger fans are tough on, I am not sure I will ever be pleased with his performance, but his goal against Pittsburgh the other night was incredible.
As for Gaborik, he was hurt before the Olympics, toughed it out to play for his country, and unfortunately wasn't ready to come back when the NHL went back to work. I still don't think he is ready, but he is gutting it out. I didn't have a problem with him playing in the Olympics, there was a lot of pride at stake for Slovakia, and he felt he was ok to play. It's the nature of the beast when you have NHL players playing in the Olympics.
BSB: I think both have regressed somewhat, and I blame the coaching staff. It's pretty well known that Tortorella is not patient with kids, as we saw from his meltdown on Zots a few weeks ago. I don't think it's helping either of them to be playing with Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival either. Paul Mara would have been the perfect guy to have around for the young defensemen, but Tortorella couldn't get him out of town fast enough.
ILWT: Over the course of the whole season, one of the criticisms of the Rangers is that the offense begins and ends with Gaborik. Given that the team's goals scorer per game average is 2.54 (just behind NJ at 2.55), is this a valid criticism? If so, what do you think can be done now to squeeze more goals from the other forwards?
BSB: The Rangers have had two brief stretches this season where they were "Gabby-less", they definitely had more offense the second go-round. The Rangers have a bad mix of forwards right now, not enough guys that will buzz the net and score the dirty goals. Until they find a guy or two that can do that, I don't see the situation changing.
ILWT: Lastly, do you have a prediction for tonight's game? Who gets to snap their losing streak tonight?
BSB: Henrik will lead the Rangers to a 2-1, 3-2 win. He always gets up for games against Marty, and I think Hank is playing the best hockey of his career. At this point, he is simply the better goalkeeper, and he will get the win tonight. (Let the argument begin!)