New York Rangers Pregame: Improving Play Edition

The New York Rangers kicked off the 2011 season with an overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings.  While the result was unfortunate, it did give us a good look at some of the things the Rangers are going to need to focus on before their game this afternoon against the Anaheim Ducks

  • For anyone who thought that Marc Staal was replaceable, l hope the game against the Kings has changed your mind. While the defense wasn't bad as a whole, it was evident that not having Staal back there to soak up minutes can become an issue. Granted, the Kings are a fantastic offensive team, but there are adjustments that can be made. Ryan McDonagh stepped up, however, in Staal's absence, and his play on the Kings' three-on-one was simply spectacular. 
  • I think Michael Del Zotto had a pretty good game yesterday. Yes, he was the player covering Mike Richards when he scored the game tying goal, but Del Zotto was solid in his own end for most of the night. He looked effective in the offensive zone, although the Rangers were only on the man advantage once in the loss. Del Zotto still threw one or two poor breakout passes, but he was one of the only players who carried the puck through the neutral zone yesterday. 
  • Henrik Lundqvist looked fantastic. There was nothing he could have done on any of the three goals, and he already looks like he is in mid-season form. He's going to have to be great while Staal is out, and yesterday was a good start. 
  • I loved Marian Gaborik's game yesterday. He went to the dangerous areas of the ice, battled in the corners and scored what was the go-ahead goal in the third. Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov were  the only players who were dangerous in the offensive zone, hopefully that improves today. 
  • The Rangers simply need to draw more power plays. Sure, there were at least three missed calls on the Kings, but the Rangers need to cycle the puck better in the offensive zone to help keep pressure on opposing team's defenses. 
  • I'm warming up to the idea of having Brandon Dubinsky on the top line. While I don't like breaking up him and Callahan, I do like what Dubinsky was able to do with the big guns. His work in the corners helped get Richards and Gaborik more time with the puck, and his physical play is always a plus. This will be a discussion we will continue to have as the year goes on, but right now I'm OK with Dubinsky where he is. 
  • The Rangers don't want to leave Europe with just one point, so a win today is important. The Rangers need to come out of the gate swinging and absolutely can't play as flat as they did against the Kings. New York needs a win this morning, plain and simple. 
The game thread will be open at 12:30 p.m. again guys, hope to see you there! Below are the Rangers notes: 

TODAY'S GAME
The Rangers will face-off against the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow in the second game of the 2011 NHL Compuware Premiere in Stockholm, Sweden (1:00 p.m. EST). The Rangers (0-0-1, 1 pt) enter tomorrow's contest having been defeated by the Kings, 3-2, in overtime earlier today in their season opener, and are now 2-0-1 all-time in regular season games played in Europe. The Blueshirts posted a 12-6-0 record in the second game of back-to-back sets last season. The Ducks enter the contest with a 0-1-0 (0 pts) record, having lost to the Buffalo Sabres, 4-1, in their season opener earlier today in Helsinki, Finland. Following tomorrow's match, the Rangers will travel to Long Island to face-off against the New York Islanders on Saturday, October 15, at Nassau Coliseum (7:00 p.m.), in a match-up between Atlantic Division rivals.

RANGERS PRACTICE SCHEDULE
The Blueshirts are scheduled for a 10:45 a.m. (local time) optional morning skate tomorrow, October 8, at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:
-TV: MSG Network
12:30 p.m. - Rangers Pre-Game Show with Bill Pidto and Ron Duguay
1:00 p.m. - Rangers at Ducks (Stockholm, Sweden)
Broadcasters: John Giannone (Play-By-Play), Joe Micheletti (Analyst)
-Radio: 1050 ESPN Radio and newyorkrangers.com
12:30 p.m. - Rangers Pre-Game Show
1:00 p.m. - Rangers at Ducks (Stockholm, Sweden)
Broadcasters: Don LaGreca (Play-By-Play), Dave Maloney (Analyst)

RANGERS vs. DUCKS:
-All-Time: 9-13-1-0 overall (5-6-1-0 at home; 4-7-0-0 on the road)
-2010-11: This is the first of two meetings between the Rangers and Ducks this season, and the only meeting away from Madison Square Garden.
-Last Season: New York was 0-1-0 following a 5-2 loss against the Ducks on Mar. 9 at Anaheim.
-The Rangers ranked ninth with a 24-16-1 (49 pts) record on the road last season; the Ducks ranked sixth with a 26-13-2 (54 pts) mark at home last season
-New York was 4-1-0 vs. the Pacific Division last season; Anaheim was 5-2-0 against the Atlantic Division last season
-Henrik Lundqvist has posted a 2-2-0 record with a 3.03 GAA in four career regular season contests vs. Anaheim, including a 0-1-0 mark with a 5.00 GAA in one game last season; Martin Biron is 8-0-1 with a 1.76 GAA and three shutouts in nine career regular season games vs. the Ducks
-Brad Richards leads the Rangers with 10 goals, 11 assists and 21 points in 22 career regular season contests vs. Anaheim, including seven points (two goals, five assists) in five games last season
-Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik each notched a goal vs. the Ducks last season, while Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan each tallied an assist
-New York lists two former Ducks on their roster: Erik Christensen (2008-09 - 2009-10); Steve Eminger (2009-10)
-Anaheim lists no former Rangers on their roster

SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Blueshirts posted a plus-13 rating on special teams (PPG+SHG minus PPGA+SHGA) last season, which tied for second in the league.
-Power Play: New York was 0-1 (2:00) yesterday against the Kings.  Last season, the Rangers were 14-72 (19.4%) in their final 21 games. New York ranked 18th overall (49-290, 16.9%) and 21st on the road (21-139, 15.1%). The Rangers were 5-15 (12:41) in five-on-three situations (last – 4/3 at PHI), and 0-7 (8:42) when four-on-three (last – 4/3 at PHI). Shorthanded goals allowed (5): 11/20 at MIN (Cullen); 12/5 vs. OTT (Kelly); 1/2 at FLA (Weiss); 1/16 vs. PHI (Richards); 3/20 at PIT (Kunitz).
-Penalty Killing: New York was 4-5 (9:16) yesterday against the Kings.  Last season, the Blueshirts were 18-20 (90.0%) in their final 11 games. New York tied for ninth overall (215-257, 83.7%) and ranked sixth on the road (117-139, 84.2%). The Rangers were 7-10 (7:21) in three-on-five situations (last – 2/27 vs. TBL), and 4-6 (2:41) when three-on-four (last – 11/15 at PIT). Shorthanded goals for (11): 10/9 at BUF (Dubinsky); 11/5 at NJD (Dubinsky); 11/15 at PIT (Staal); 11/24 at TBL (Boyle); 11/26 at FLA (Prust); 12/5 vs. OTT (Prust); 12/12 vs. WSH (Staal); 12/16 vs. PHX (Prust); 1/7 at DAL (Fedotenko); 2/27 vs. TBL (Prust); 3/15 vs. NYI (Prust).
-Four-on-Four: New York did not tally/yield a goal in one four-on-four situation (2:51) yesterday against the Kings.  Last season, the Rangers posted a plus-three rating in 67, four-on-four situations (134:41), and an even rating in one, three-on-three situation (2:00, 2/17 vs. LAK). Four-on-four goals for (7): 10/18 vs. COL (Frolov); 11/11 vs. BUF (Anisimov); 11/15 at PIT (Callahan); 12/12 vs. WSH (Callahan); 1/5 vs. CAR (Zuccarello); 3/4 at OTT (Stepan); 3/6 vs. PHI (Zuccarello). Four-on-four goals allowed (4): 10/15 vs. TOR (Kessel); 1/1 at TBL (Thompson); 3/15 vs. NYI (Moulson); 4/3 at PHI (Zherdev).

BACK-TO-BACKS
New York will close out their first of 14 back-to-back sets this season when they face-off against the Anaheim Ducks tonight at Ericsson Globe Arena. Last season, the Rangers competed in 18 back-to-back sets, posting a record of 10-7-1 (3-2-0 at home, 7-5-1 on the road) in the first game and 12-6-0 (5-2-0 at home, 7-4-0 on the road) in the second game of the set. New York out-scored their opponent, 50-35, in the second game. Since 2009-10, New York is 21-8-2 in the back-end of back-to-back sets, including a 9-3-1 mark at MSG and 12-5-1 on the road over the span.

SEASON OPENERS RECAP:
-The Rangers are now 35-36-14 all-time in 85 season-opening games, including a 25-27-9 record in 61 season openers away from MSG.
-New York has out-scored their opponents, 243-239 in season-openers.
-The Rangers are 22-22-5-0 all-time in the second game of the season when not winning their season opener.
-Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella has now posted a record of 6-2-1 in nine career season-opening games for a .722 winning percentage.
-Henrik Lundqvist is now 4-1-1 with a 2.31 GAA and a .920 Sv% in six career season-opening games. He is one win shy of Gump Worsley's franchise record of five career wins in season openers.

O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!
Ryan Callahan notched the Rangers’ first goal of the season with an even strength tally at 15:22 of the first period yesterday against the Kings, while making his debut as the team’s captain. He also led all skaters with a career-high, 11 shots on goal, was credited with three hits, and led all team forwards with 20:30 of ice time. Callahan’s 11 shots were the most by a Ranger since Brendan Shanahan recorded 12 shots on goal on Apr. 4, 2008 vs. the Islanders.

NEW FACES
The Rangers had three players make their Rangers debut in yesterday's season opener against the Kings - Tim Erixon, Brad Richards and Mike Rupp. Richards tallied an assist in the contest, while Erixon was also making his NHL debut. Defensemen Brendan Bell and Jeff Woywitka are still looking to make their Rangers debut.

GETTING STARTED:
-The Rangers have posted a record of 281-270-92 all-time in the month of October, including a 176-117-48 mark at home and a 105-153-44 record on the road. New York (0-0-1) is scheduled to play 10 games during the season's opening month in 2011-12, with three games being contested at MSG and seven scheduled on the road.
-Legendary Rangers' defenseman Brian Leetch holds the franchise record for most points in the month of October, having registered 43 goals and 130 assists for 173 career points in the season's opening month.
-The Blueshirts' all-time leader for most career wins in the month of October is Mike Richter, who registered 40 career wins during the season's opening month. Henrik Lundqvist has recorded 33 career wins during the month of October.
-New York has posted two, seven-game winning streaks in the month of October, winning seven consecutive games during the season's opening month in 2009-10 (Oct. 3 vs. Ottawa to Oct. 17 at Toronto) and 1988-89 (Oct. 16 vs. Vancouver to Oct. 30 vs. Pittsburgh).

COUNTDOWN TO 2,500 WINS
The Rangers are currently 16 wins shy of 2,500 wins, having won 2,484 games all-time in franchise history.

CLOSING TIME
The Blueshirts were the only team in the NHL who were undefeated when leading after two periods last season, posting a record of 29-0-0 in those contests. The Rangers tied for third in the league with a plus-22 goal differential in the third period (85 goals for, 63 goals against). New York also tied for second in the NHL with eight wins and 20 points in games in which it trailed entering the final frame.

AMONG THE LEAGUE LEADERS
The Rangers completed the 2010-11 season leading the league in hits (2,333), ranked fourth in blocked shots (1,301), tied for first in shutouts (11), second in number of players with at least one GWG (19), third in shootout wins (nine), fourth in shorthanded goals (11) and road wins (24), fifth in goals against (198), and fifth with a plus-35 goal differential.

MILESTONES IN SIGHT:
-Brandon Prust: 2 games from 200th NHL career
-Brad Richards: 3 assists from 500th NHL career
-Mike Rupp: 2 games from 500th NHL career
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