The ESPN Power Rankings for the NHL have changed as they do every week. However, this week’s standing caused a stir among Ranger fans I talked to at SUNY New Paltz.
The Chicago Blackhawks are in first.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are in second.
The New York Rangers are in third.
Oh yes, you read that correctly.
After starting their season off with no spark, the Rangers are now on a five-game winning streak. Usually the Rangers start off strong right away. This season it took them awhile, but now they’re in their usual season-starting form.
We all know how this story goes though. The Rangers are as inconsistent as they come, and they’ll have these dry-spells where they just can’t seem to win no matter how hard they try.
Right now though, the Rangers are playing the way they should and Head Coach John Tortorella said he was pleased with how the offense has been going back to the blueline to help the defense. In turn, defensemen are getting more opportunities to score goals.
If the Rangers want to stay consistent this season, they’ll need to keep this style of play up.
First, props need to be given to defenseman Dan Girardi. He’s been a strong defender for the Rangers a few seasons now. However, he’s really stepped it up as the leader of the team’s defensive unit, being the primary catalyst for the Rangers allowing the least amount of goals in the entire NHL.
With that being said, the entirety of the Rangers defense has been playing solid these past few games. As per usual, Henrik Lundqvist has saved his teammates on several occasions within the past week. That one diving save he made against the New York Islanders Tuesday night showed why the Rangers faithful have called him “King Henrik” since he first started with the team back in 2005 (who else can’t believe six years have gone by so quickly?).
Tortorella needs to keep having the offensive players help out in the back. Last year, Marian Gaborik lost his scoring touch. He now has nine goals on the season along with 15 assists, which is pretty darn good for mid-November. Tortorella attributes this to Gaborik helping in the back, which I can’t help but agree with. The same goes for Artem Anisimov, who’s tired for third on the team in points with 10.
Thinking about this, have the Rangers found their niche?
Tortorella is a smart coach, and he may have finally figured out the key to the Rangers’ success. The Rangers, as it turns out, are a defensively-minded team and their best offense stems from a good defense. For too long players haven’t played to their top assets, but it seems like that is changing this year.
The Rangers need to keep doing what they’ve been doing to remain consistent. They have been playing to their strengths and it’s working for them. This style of play doesn’t put too much stress and work on the shoulders of Lundqvist or Martin Biron, and it’s no secret that a huge chunk of the success the team sees is due to the goaltending.
Also, Brad Richards is really starting to prove his worth and disprove the idea that any big-name player who comes to New York instantly hits a slump. He’s been nothing short of clutch these past few games, scoring the game-winning goal against the Islanders Tuesday in just under five minutes of the third period.
When he was first signed, people were dreading Richards’ arrival in New York simply to take it easy in his last years as an NHL player and back in the glow of Broadway’s lights.
I tried to be optimistic and think that Richards was coming to New York because he believed it would be his best option for winning the Stanley Cup before retiring.
I’m starting to think I might have been right.