I have always maintained truly great teams are like chameleons. Those teams can morph and evolve game-by-game to keep marching forward; the types of teams who can just as easily win a 1-0 contest as they can if a game turns into a 6-5 barn burner.
The New York Rangers are 5-1-1 since Henrik Lundqvist was taken out of the equation due to a vascular injury. That record is, most likely, better than anyone could have truly believed when Cam Talbot took over the reigns for Lundqvist. Not because Talbot is bad, but because Talbot simply isn't Henrik Lundqvist. The drop off -- no matter who tended the pipes -- was always going to be pretty substantial.
Before the Rangers kicked off their four-game road trip, Mike talked about how important it was for the Rangers to get the better of some lesser opponents that were coming up at a fortunate time (with the Rangers down their backup goalie). They got the job done too, going 4-0 down that stretch. It might not have been pretty (most times it wasn't) but the Rangers offense found a way to win.
Which sort of brings me to my point: The Rangers team defense (so, not just defenseman) need to figure it out and they need to figure it out before the "cupcake" portion of the team's schedule ends.
The Rangers blew substantial leads against Toronto and Colorado before finally winning both with third-period surges. While the Rangers did a good job keeping Arizona off the scoreboard, Talbot needed to come up huge when the game was tied at one thanks to a few mental breakdowns that led to glorious chances the other way. And against the Islanders the Rangers allowed chance after chance before finally coming to life in the third period and grabbing a win from the jaws of defeat.
Essentially, the Rangers offense has provided a safety net that we haven't seen in a long, long time. I can only imagine what Lundqvist is thinking from the press box as he watches the same team who somehow allows him to lose a game in which he only gives up one goal seemingly score at will to bail out Talbot's shaky moments.
It's been amazing to watch, but it's also playing with fire on a level I can't really describe. The Rangers offense scoring five or six goals a game isn't sustainable over the long haul, and their defensive mistakes are going to come back to haunt them against better teams.
The good news? The Rangers still got all eight points -- as ugly as they might have been -- which has helped the Rangers move up in the Metro standings. The Rangers next five games consist of a road matchup against the Sabres and four home contests against Vancouver (tonight), Columbus, Calgary and Arizona. Again, not exactly the worst matchups for the Rangers current situation.
Which means it's a perfect time for the Rangers to shore up their defense. Against better teams, the Rangers most likely wouldn't have walked through the smoke of the road trip at 4-0. And if the Rangers do have plans on returning to the Stanley Cup Final, they need to make sure these defensive breakdowns are more rare than commonplace.
No better time than the present for that.